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Field dance designer harmonizes well with Tempel Lipizzans


Melanie Michalak started dancing, playing instruments and riding horses when she was young. It’s no surprise that all three passions led him to a career as a dressage musical freestyle designer.

Michalak, whose work can be seen as part of the new “Celebrating 65th Anniversary: ​​Dancing Through Decades” featuring Tempel Lipizzan horses in Tempel, said, “I was trained in the elements of dressage as well as the musical elements.” Farms at Old Mill Creek.

The program combines classical riding and dressage with music ranging from jazz and doo-wop to patriotic arrangements.

“A happy marriage of music to horses. Basically, I choreograph the dances for the horses,” said Michalak, a resident of Tinley Park. That’s why I make the music.”

The production isn’t his first relationship with the Lipizzans. This was in 2009 when he did the music and choreography for a solo performance at the request of then-head coach Jochen Hippenstiel.

“I had a great time doing this,” Michalak said. “It was my first time going there. I remember being fascinated by this opportunity.”

He was invited again to organize a pas de deux performance featuring the two riders and was asked to put together the Tempel Lipizzans’ Christmas show in 2022.

The invitation came from Esther Buonanno, Tempel’s granddaughter and Esther Smith’s granddaughter, who founded Tempel Farms in 1958.

“I’ve never done a show with so many elements before. I’ve done freestyle shows where each rider has their own freestyle and they come and do their thing,” Michalak said.

“I did competitions. I’ve done the Pan American Games, the U.S. Olympic Trials, and the North American Junior Dressage Championships for juniors and junior riders, but nothing that required a lot of connective tissue stuff from start to finish.

The Christmas show was well received, prompting Buonanno to immediately ask if he would be interested in putting together their 65th anniversary show.

“Dancing for Decades was a big undertaking,” he said.

“I went from doing something for their show periodically to making their own Christmas show and then helping them develop the concept for this 65th show,” Michalak said. “This was a huge project that took four and a half months. It was great and I am honored to do so.

The show at Tempel Farms offers the opportunity to see all the different aspects of a horse’s life, from birth to its highest education. Wonderful.”

He said that Michalak’s career stemmed from the instruments he started playing as a child.

“I started with the accordion. Michalak, who also plays guitar, harpsichord, viola, double bass and mandolin, continued to learn many other instruments due to the music theory involved in this instrument.

Melanie Michalak, left, collaborated with several people at Tempel Farms in Old Mill Creek, including dressage instructor and professional rider Raul Roa Vadillo for the Tempel Lipizzans.  Celebrating the band's 65th anniversary, the latest show features jazz, doo-wop and patriotic music.

As a high school student at the former Seton Academy in South Holland, he was a member of the school choir and part of the madrigal program.

“Madrigals became my passion. When I went to college, I learned that I also love theory and competition. “I was the choirmaster at Evergreen Park High for 30 years and I majored in Renaissance (music).”

“We did well there. We’ve won first place in state competition for 30 years, so I was honored to teach those amazing kids and work with their families.”

Shortly after the death of her mother and sister-in-law, she said she decided it was time to make a change in her life.

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“I decided to move on to this parallel career that I’ve been doing since 1989. I had no idea it would explode like this. I travel all the time.”

Winner of more than 200 US Dressage Federation Horse of the Year and All Race awards since 2014, Michalak has worked with riders from six countries and has been a featured dressage clinician at events such as the Midwest Horse Fair.

He has also designed freestyle routines for competitions such as the Extreme Mustang Makeover, the Grand National & World Championship Morgan Horse Show, the Icelandic Horse World Championship in Helsinki, and the American Western Dressage Association World Championship Show.

“The real joy is from the moment we start designing something to see it transform into something that blends the beauty of athletics and dressage with the magic of music. It elevates it,” he said.

“This creative power is something you cannot deny. I feel very privileged to be able to continue working in a field I love and always discover new things. I enjoy helping people achieve their dreams.”

Tickets for the Lipizzan show range from $25 to $95 and include a self-guided tour of the stallion stables, which can be purchased after the performance. Shows are scheduled for 20, 23 and 30 August at 13:00 and on 3 September and 26 August at 18:00. Tickets can be ordered at: tempelfarms.com.

Jessi Virtusio is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.


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