Bach hasn’t been this cool since 1722. The Flying Steps come to Australia to perform Flying Bach, a dance performance that combines Johann Sebastian Bach’s ‘Well-Tempered Clavier’ with breakdancing, matching harpsichords with head spins, power moves and freezes.
But they’re embodying it in a way that Bach never could have dreamed of. Combining elements from multiple dance traditions, with an emphasis on urban styles like breakdancing and hip hop, the effect is surreal, stunning, and weirdly seamless.
‘It turns the classical world upside down, crossing the borders of serious music and youth culture,’ says choreographer Vartan Bassil. ‘We are not only dancing, we are visualizing and reviving Bach’s music. The Flying Steps learned every single note. Each dancer represents precisely what is written on the sheet of music. We personify each voice of the fugues. One dancer represents the high tone, the second visualizes the middle tone, and the bass is assigned to a third dancer. By doing so, we literally embody Bach’s music in its complete entity.’
‘Bach’s ‘Well-Tempered Clavier’ fits best because our movements are as accurately, sharp and cool as Bach composed,’ says Bassil, who’s not surprised modern breakdancing moves blends so well with music written almost 300 years ago. ‘With breakdance you can visualize Bach’s compositions very precisely, especially the contrapuntal rhythm. It matches better than modern dance or ballet. Our artistic director Christoph Hagel once said, that breakdance and Bach interpret time, visually and musically, in a pretty similar way.’
Bassil hopes shows like this will also help people visual breakdancing in a new way.
‘We wanted to do something completely new. Moreover we want to demonstrate that breakdance can be much more than sports or street culture,’ he says. ’For a long time, I had the idea of dancing to classical music. I had all these pictures in my head and I knew it would work, because what a ballerina can do with her feet, a pirouette for example, we can do on our heads. But the question was, which composer and piece of music fits best. Then we met Christoph Hagel and he suggested the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. The idea of Red Bull Flying Bach was born.”
Part of what helps ease people into the fascinating juxtaposition is the way the music is mixed. They combine elements of the classical compositions with electronic remixes, to help bridge any gaps between the movements on stage and what the audience is hearing.
‘We have three different elements of music: The classical part is presented by piano and harpsichord, the modern part by electronic beats,’ says Bassil. ‘Some elements of Bach’s music are remixed by Ketan and Vivan Bhatti, two well known composers based in Germany.’
So far, it seems to be a hit. ‘The crowd’s reaction is unbelievable. From the elderly, classically trained music lovers to the younger generation who‘d never really been into Bach or any music of this kind, everybody is fascinated how perfectly these two worlds fit together,’ says Bassil. ‘We already performed Red Bull Flying Bach in different countries, and the reaction was always amazing. I believe, that our performance will be understood everywhere.’
Audiences in Australia can expect nothing else. ‘They can expect an exciting clash of cultures. They can expect one of the best urban dance groups worldwide. They can expect a show which combines Bach and breakdance in a way never seen before,’ says Bassil. ‘Red Bull Flying Bach is something new, it’s entertaining, it’s fascinating. I promise: they will have a great time.’
Bach would be so proud.