'For me, Bach's music embodies movement and dance like no other music', according to Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. The Six Brandenburg Concertos are an ambitious undertaking. As with Vortex Temporum - the festival's opening performance in 2014 - she is approaching the music as a score for the choreography, making this performance embody Bach's polyphonic mastery. From this simplicity a compelling whole comes into being. Violinist Amandine Beyer will conduct the baroque ensemble B'Rock that is performing the concerts live. Against this backdrop, De Keersmaeker sets sixteen dancers from various Rosas generations - the largest ensemble she has ever worked with.
For almost forty years Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker has been fascinated by Bach. In 1980, when she made her debut and was working on her solo dance piece Violin Phase, the music that could
be heard in her rehearsal studio wasn’t only Steve Reich’s. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos were also playing. ‘His music carries movement within it,’ De Keersmaeker says, speaking about her long love for Bach. She was captivated by the way he combines immense abstraction with a concrete, corporeal and transcendent dimension. ‘Architecture in movement’ is her term for Bach’s works. ‘A kind of ordered chaos or chaotic order is what rules Bach’s music,’ she says. ‘His music never sounds forced, of course, but always natural and immensely human. It seems as if this cosmic order is part of the genetic code of Bach’s mind.’
Just as in previous productions, such as Vortex Temporum (Holland Festival 2014) and Mitten wir im Leben sind/Bach6Cellosuiten (2017), Keersmaeker uses the musical score as a blueprint for the dance. In this production, also, the choreography is tied, measure by measure and with the greatest precision, to The Six Brandenburg Concertos. The foundation of the choreography is a geometric floor plan, composed of spirals and pentagrams, straight lines, interwoven zigzag movements and circles, along which the dancers move. The choreography serves as a physical counterpoint to the sounds of the instruments – the dance is no slave-like follower, but an autonomous partner of the music. As in previous works the choreographic credo ‘My walking is my dancing’ is the guiding principle for the dance movements. The most basic rhythms of the body are put centre-stage: heartbeat, breathing and the purposeful movement of walking.
De Keersmaeker found further inspiration for the dancers’ phrasing and gestures in L'Abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze (1988-9), a French television programme featuring the philosopher Gilles Deleuze improvising on a selection of alphabetically ordered words, from ‘A’ for ‘animal’ to ‘Z’ for ‘zigzag’. The words of this Alphabet Book are not exactly depicted in this production, but are the basis for its dance vocabulary. They are concepts that provide punctuation, rhythm, purpose and precision. The Rosas dancers search for their own unique, expressive freedom within this strict framework and these rules of play.
The six concerti grossi of the Brandenburg Concertos are famous for their progressive nature. In these six pieces Bach uses the standard baroque instruments in extremely unusual and daring combinations for the period, turning the traditional hierarchy of the orchestra upside down. Instruments such as the recorder and the harpsichord, which generally played an accompanying role in classical baroque music, are given unexpected solos. But it was also the vigour and vitality of this work that made such a deep impression on De Keersmaeker: ‘In Bach’s music one recognises experiences buried in the memory of every individual human body: joy, rage, comfort, disdain, revenge, pity, pleasure, pain, melancholy, ecstasy. Everything in his music is about communication.’
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker (Mechelen, 1960), an innovator of dance, studied at the Mudra Dance School in Brussels and the Tisch School of the Arts in New York. She debuted in 1980 with Asch,
her first choreographic work, and established her reputation two years later with Fase, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich. Since then De Keersmaeker has established herself as one of the most progressive, influential and celebrated artists of contemporary dance. In 1983 she created the breakthrough work Rosas danst Rosas, at the same time establishing the dance company Rosas. From the very start, her choreography was grounded in a rigorous exploration of the relationship between dance and music, as seen in her work Bartók/Mikrokosmos (1987) and Achterland (1990). From 1992 to 2007 De Keersmaeker was choreographer in residence at the Brussels Opera House De Munt/La Monnaie. In 1995, in collaboration with this establishment, she founded an international school for contemporary dance, the Performing Arts Research and Training Studios (P.A.R.T.S). In the course of her career she has created an extensive performance oeuvre, in which the musical structures of various traditions are paired with the strict rules and formal principles of geometry, mathematics, the natural world and social structures. The results provide a unique perspective on the body’s articulation in space and time. The dance company Rosas has appeared several times at the Holland Festival, most recently with the impressive Vortex Temporum (2014), based on Gérard Grisey’s eponymous spectralist work. Bach’s sonatas and fugues were central to De Keersmaeker’s Toccata (1993), which also appeared at the Holland Festival. Now, in The Six Brandenburg Concertos, De Keersmaeker returns to an early enthusiasm, taking Bach’s concerti grossi as her starting point.
B’Rock Orchestra was founded in Ghent in 2005. The orchestra combines classical instruments with 21st-century ideas and timeless joy, striving for innovation and renewal in the world of Early Music. The international musicians who form the orchestra are known for their openness of spirit and flexibility, both in repertoire and styles of performance. They bring their intuitive, inquisitive and impact-driven approach to a wide range of projects, creating ‘orchestral theatre’ from the fertile encounter of early and contemporary music. Special attention is paid to the creation of new music, but early music in combination with theatre, the visual arts and/or video is also a vital part of their artistic DNA. They draw on four centuries of musical history, and use the instruments suited to each period. The ensemble has no permanent conductor, but regularly collaborates with leading guest conductors and soloists such as René Jacobs, Ivor Bolton, Jérémie Rhorer, Alexander Melnikov, Dmitry Sinkovsky, Bejun Mehta and others. B’Rock Orchestra also works with the choirs of De Munt/La Monnaie and Muziektheater Transparant, and is associated with deSingel Arts Campus, Antwerp and the Opéra de Normandie Rouen. The ensemble’s mission is to bring the purest musical experiences to the broadest possible audience. B’Rock Orchestra has played at various prestigious venues and festivals, such as the Theater an der Wien, the Philharmonie de Paris, Bozar Music in Brussels, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the BBC Proms, the Klarafestival, the Concertgebouw Brugge, the Kölner Philharmonie, L'Auditori in Barcelona, the Wiener Festwochen, the Ruhrtriennale and the Mozartwoche in Salzburg. B’Rock Orchestra previously appeared at the Holland Festival in productions of the opera Orlando (2014) and Haydn’s oratorio Die Schöpfung (2016).
Amandine Beyer (Aix-en-Provence, 1974) started her musical career at the age of four. Although her first instrument was the recorder, she soon discovered the violin. She was admitted to the prestigious Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique, Paris when she was 15, writing her master’s dissertation on the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen during her time there. After graduating in musicology in 1996, she moved to Basel, Switzerland for advanced study at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, with the Swiss conductor and violinist Chiara Banchini. In 1998 she and her ensemble L'Assemblée des Honnestes Curieux won the Premio Bonporti and the Special Jury Prize at the International Baroque Violin Competition, Rovereto. Beyer is now a renowned interpreter of the baroque violin repertoire. Since 2000 she has performed as a soloist at many international festivals and concert halls. Her recording of Bach’s Sonatas & Partitas (2012), with her own ensemble Gli Incogniti, received great critical acclaim. Like the choreographers and dancers Anna Teresa De Keersmaeker and Boris Charmatz she is captivated by the music of Bach. In 2013 she played the solo violin part for De Keersmaeker’s and Charmatz’s intimate production Partita 2. In addition to working with her own ensemble, Beyer is a member of various other groups, including Les Cornets Noirs. Additionally, she appears regularly on stage in duo performances with Pierre Hantai, Kristian Bezuidenhout and Laurence Beyer. Her other passion is teaching. She teaches courses in the Faculty of Music, Arts and Performing Arts of the Polytechnic Institute of Porto, Portugal, and holds worldwide masterclasses. Since 2010 she has taught the baroque violin at her former institute, the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, Basel. Her performance in The Six Brandenburg Concertos is her debut at the Holland Festival.
- Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker
- music director
- Amandine Beyer
- B'Rock Orchestra
- Johann Sebastian Bach, the Brandenburg Concertos, BWV 1046–1051
- An D'Huys
- set and lighting design
- Jan Versweyveld
- Jan Vandenhouwe
- musical advice
- Kees van Houten
- created with and danced by
- Boštjan Antončič, Carlos Garbin, Frank Gizycki, Marie Goudot, Robin Haghi, Cynthia Loemij, Mark Lorimer, Michaël Pomero, Jason Respilieux, Igor Shyshko, Luka Švajda, Jakub Truszkowski, Thomas Vantuycom, Samantha van Wissen, Sandy Williams, Sue Yeon Youn
- B’Rock Orchestra, Volksbühne, La Monnaie / De Munt, Opéra de Lille, Opéra National de Paris, Sadler’s Wells, Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, Concertgebouw Brugge, Holland Festival
- special thanks to
- Gli Incogniti
- this production was realized with the support of the
- Tax Shelter of the Belgian Federal Government, in collaboration with Casa Kafka Pictures Tax Shelter empowered by Belfius.