Magazine article The Spectator

Inspired by Bach

Magazine article The Spectator

Inspired by Bach

Article excerpt

It appears that J.S. Bach's music is to theatre-dance what whipped cream is to chocolate. Masterworks such as Trisha Brown's MO, George Balanchine's Concerto Barocco and a plethora of less-known, though equally acclaimed compositions owe a great deal to the giant of baroque music. Wayne McGregor is the most recent addition to this illustrious roster of successful Bach-inspired dance-makers with Tetractys -The Art of Fugue, which world-premiered last Friday.

Set, as the title implies, to Michael Berkeley's orchestration of The Art of Fugue, played on the piano by Kate Shipway, the new work stands out for the intensity of the dialogue between music and dance. Linear beauty dominates a majestic series of trios, quartets and duos, which materialise out of the darkness in line with the developments in the score. The choreography, in which elements of McGregor's known style are mixed with formulae that are not so typical of his vocabulary, is perfectly encased in Lucy Carter's lighting shades, which, in turn, provide the background to Tauba Auerbach's costumes and sets.

Both McGregor and Auerbach focused on Bach's well-known use of symmetries.

Yet each responded differently: the choreographer with ideas that moved from the classic dance idiom in its purest form to more unconventional and less linear readings; the designer, with pastel-toned colour blocks for the costumes and lighting installations that come to life in line with the music, creating shapes and patterns that reflect and highlight the score's geometries. Their efforts thus blend seamlessly.

The designs are never invasive, and the dance, with its shifts from linear simplicity to quirky-looking, appropriately neobaroque inventions, remains constantly at the forefront, splendidly executed by 12 of the Royal Ballet's best artists. Among them was the newly acquired star Natalia Osipova, whose Giselle sent ripples of both approval and disapproval through ballet-goers and balletomanes earlier in the season. …

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