The Madrid based company gets around and is going to New York this summer with Multiplicity - the piece reviewed here. The Royal Ballet is also set to perform some more Duato work: BM
Moved by a divine impulse
Review by Valerie Lawson
Strumming her body with a bow, Johann Sebastian Bach coaxes a melody from a dancer in black briefs and singlet. She snakes and shimmies, quivers and shivers, her body becoming the music. The pas de deux of Bach with his living cello signals early in the piece that Multiplicity is a journey into Bach's mind, where the dancers will express the music, appear as the notes on the bars, and metamorphose into the instruments.
Neither too cerebral nor too obvious, Multiplicity engages the audience with its inventiveness, and the choreographer's love of Bach, while it proves once again that ballet goes with Bach, goes with baroque, goes with black (costumes and set.)
The full evening work at the Sydney Festival was danced by the Madrid-based Compañia Nacional de Danza, led by Nacho Duato. His work has been seen here before, but this piece has introduced his company to Australia and reinforced his reputation as a top-ranking choreographer with a clear lineage to Jirí Kylián, with whom he worked intensively in the 1980s.
Premiering 18 months ago in Weimar, where Bach worked from 1708 to 1717, Multiplicity ends with Bach's death in 1750, foreshadowed by references to his blindness and what I read as the impact of earlier deaths of those close to him. Bach is depicted by dancer Thomas Klein in conventional period costume complete with wig. While Klein dances with sensitivity and strength, his appearance sometimes casts him as an intruder from another ballet, set apart from his fellow dancers who wear either skimpy tops and briefs or vestiges of baroque dress, one white sleeve, say, or pieces of velvet coat fronts, or abbreviated hooped petticoats with ribboned underpinnings.
Duato opens the work dancing as himself - the choreographer - who asks Bach if he may use his music. He's far from the first to do so; in fact there's an early reference to Bach's enduring popularity with choreographers, from George Balanchine to Stephen Baynes, when one dancer places her hand on Bach and uses him as a practice barre. The choreography goes on to examine the exterior and interior worlds of Bach, blending reality, when he dances with a woman who might be his wife, with imagination, when he conducts the dancers as notes, or deals with the cacophony or beauty of the music in his mind. This exterior/interior concept is reinforced by the set, an upstage grid-like construction of scaffolding and ramps by architect Jaffar Chalabi. In the second half, the scaffolding is hidden by layers of black which gradually concertina to reveal the interior once more. Danced mainly to Bach's The Art of Fugue, the choreography becomes more fluid and sophisticated, with greater use of levels encompassing floor work and complex partnering rather than an emphasis on the dancers moving across stage, coming to rest in profile, showing angular arm shapes.
When Bach dies, the music dies: the dancers who have been ascending the ramp freeze in the golden glow of side lighting. It's an arresting moment, literally. As the music resumes, Duato reappears. He glances at Bach, but is drawn to a white masked woman - Death - danced by Emmanuelle Broncin, who earlier makes a strong impact dancing robotically in contrast to the delicacy of Concerto No. 5 in F minor.
At 100 minutes in length, Multiplicity sometimes stretches Duato's choreographic vocabulary, but he holds the audience's interest throughout, proving the truth of the remark by the cellist Pablo Casals that Bach's music makes divine things human and human things divine.
this piece was originally published in the Australian Financial Review