Dancing with Bach

Judith Wright Centre, March 6

Bach’s Cello Suites were amongst the first suites of classical music to work their way into my bones. Lucid Dance Theatre’s Dancing with Bach project, choreographed by Louise Deleur in collaboration with cellist Louise King, aims to evoke the feeling of the suites as well as to paint a portrait of the composer’s life and work through dance.

But first, before Bach, we are shocked into a short piece called Surge — a lightning storm of a dance piece, performed by two sinewy figures upon a beach. The visuals are engrossing, with the dancers silhouetted against shoreline. We can almost smell the salt in the air.

There’s a 10-minute break that is determinedly not an interval: house lights go up, pop music hums, the stage is set for the main event — but we can’t leave our seats. At last, lights go down and bow meets cello. King’s performance is fluid and captivating. It’s easy to focus on her body language, but the dancers too are worthy of attention. They do more than dance to the music; the aim is to perform the suites with the body.

Dancing with Bach

Dancing with Bach is a work developed through the Judith Wright Centre’s Fresh Ground program. It’s an interesting production in this theatre space. With cello the only accompaniment, the thud of dancers’ feet on stage reverberates. In some ways, this focuses us on the dancers’ visceral movements; in other ways, it’s distracting. (You could hear a pin drop — or the sound-techs whisper.)

I always try to state my biases: dance is something I’m only learning about. For me, Dancing with Bach is an unsubtle piece — a little heavy-handed, heavy-footed. Rikki Mason dances the role of Bach himself, with Melissa Tattam and Elizabeth Barnard. Their danced relationships are intimate and tense, yet perhaps it is the sonic-emptiness of the space that makes communicating this intimacy to the audience difficult. Projections on a tall, thin screen illuminate stories from Bach’s life and, in this manner, we are unnecessarily told that we “find a world of emotions” in the suites — something the performance itself inherently seeks to show. The show don’t seem confident that the music will guide the dancers’ movements and our reactions and, as such, Dancing with Bach never seems to get the timing just right.


Dancing with Bach played at the Judith Wright Centre from March 6 to 8, 2013. 

For a different point of view, I liked this review at SameSame.com.au.

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