BACH Review by Theaterkrant
BACH Review: Eclectic ode to Bach
March 4th, 2023
In its new programme Introdans shows a number of works based on the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Existing and adapted choreographies adorn the evening. Choreographer Manuelle Vignoulle developed the somewhat illustrative Anima especially for this programme. Should we have to dramatize Bach’s music? Choreographer Andonis Foniadakis has understood very well that his strength lies mainly in mathematics.
Bach from ‘different perspectives’; that’s the approach. The Introdans evening features several works: one new piece, two films and two older works. When it comes to resuming existing choreographies, Introdans has a name. I especially think of the special work of Lucinda Childs, which was performed a few years ago; it is sometimes as mathematical as Bach’s compositions. The dancers of Introdans are therefore well trained in this mathematics. Corpus Bach by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Nicolas Vladyslav, which opens the evening, is an extract from the full-length work the two created in 2005 under the banner of the Flemish Les Ballets C de la B. The duet has been adapted into a male quartet of fifteen minutes.
Light, live music and movement form a dialogue in this ultra-compact reworking. Harmony and rhythm alternate in four sophisticated dance sections. They end with impressive acrobatic poses. Cellist Detmar Leertouwer gives his own, gradually abrasive, interpretation of four ‘Cello Suites’ by Bach, while his instrument is given a special role in a witty intermezzo. The famous play with the hands and arms in which dancers run off with the movements of the cellist is visually attractive, but also feels like just an outline because the dialogue between dancer and musician hardly gets a chance. This version of Corpus Bach is simply too short for that.
In the film The Volume in the Flatness Jurriën Schobben and Alberto Villanueva, both also dancers of the ensemble, are inspired by the personal life of composer Bach. Body and object enter into dialogue in a capricious compilation of images. We see fragments of dancers entangled in rubber bands, flashes of ensemble work intercut with close-ups of faces and a large tilting object. An introductory text leads us into the emotional chaos in an artist’s head. Thoughts that we actually all recognize, in each of us there is a struggling ‘Bach’ from time to time. But are we also such virtuoso dancers, that is a question. In a short black-and-white film, Inge Theunissen portrays the dancer ensemble in rehearsal. And so the evening is complete. Not only do we look into Bach’s head, but also into the rehearsal.
The new choreography Anima by the French choreographer Manuelle Vignoulle (also active for Dutch National Ballet) is an ensemble work. Fragments of Bach’s compositions are strung together in a fragmentary work that starts and ends with the entire ensemble. Under blue suits with jackets, a flesh-colored body emerges with red spots. They transform into a pattern of veins that are linked to the heart (the costume design is also by Manuelle Vignoulle). A solo becomes a ‘cockfight’ and then transforms into a lyrical duet with a floating alter-ego. Anima is a somewhat psychedelic work, sometimes flatly choreographed to the music, but fortunately sometimes also more layered in terms of movement. The interaction between the two costumes that symbolize the outside and inside world offers something to hold on to. But unfortunately it also immediately illustrates what the choreography tells.
As calm as the evening begins, so intensely and dynamically it ends, with the ensemble piece Selon désir by Greek choreographer Andonis Foniadakis from 2003. These are also the highlights of this eclectic evening. The monumental openings of the St Matthew and St John Passion are central, followed by Bach’s wonderful mathematics – now interwoven in a complex ensemble piece. Skirts flutter profusely in the wind of movements. The colorful costumes by Marion Schmid set their frivolous tone against the bombastic music (which has been electronically processed here and there). It is a beautiful work, with a leading role for the flow. The drama is captured in a few evocative stills, in which we can read the great suffering in one moment.
Life and suffering, Selon désir summarizes it in twenty-two minutes of swirling dance. Love an hour of this kind of splendor! It remains a pity that large dance companies get stuck in the multitude of ‘short numbers’. It could be done differently.