The Goldberg Variations – Dancing Instances

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Posted on September 21, 2022

In her last weblog on the Dancing Instances web site, Barbara Newman sees
Anna Teresa De Keersmaeker at Sadler’s Wells

The Goldberg Variations is the sixth piece Anna Teresa De Keersmaeker has choreographed to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, and there’s no solution to speak about it with out first contemplating the music. A solo work for the keyboard, supposed for the harpsichord, the composition consists of a gap aria, which is repeated on the finish, and 30 variations developed in a proper sample of canons and established musical types of broadly assorted character.

The rating’s general size and elaborate construction current monumental challenges to any dancemaker. When Jerome Robbins determined to deal with it, having by no means set a step to Bach, he stated, “It was like approaching a lovely marble wall. I may get no toehold, no leverage to get inside that constructing.” But his ballet, made in 1971 and named for the rating, met its calls for with extraordinary sensitivity and creativeness; it stays within the repertoire of New York Metropolis Ballet and has additionally been staged in Paris and Munich.

Since creating her first dance to Bach’s music in 1993, De Keersmaeker has labored her method via the six Brandenburg concerti and the cello suites, usually organising her items for a big group. In 2018, she requested the sensible pianist Pavel Kolesnikov to affix her in performing The Goldberg Variations, not as an accompanist however as a solo musician sharing the stage together with her on equal phrases. As soon as COVID-19 was in retreat, they realised this dance in 2020 and not too long ago introduced it to Sadler’s Wells for its UK premiere.

The Goldberg Variations.

All through her profession, De Keersmaeker has deployed a minimalist vocabulary of pure motion – strolling, operating, skipping – to probe and develop easy geometric figures – traces, circles, spirals. Presumably she adopted the identical technique on this piece, however over the course of two hours, I couldn’t discern the relation of the actions to one another or, besides in probably the most common sense, to the music.

Merce Cunningham’s dancers used to rehearse in silence, as a result of the choreography was made to be unbiased of the rating, whether or not fastened or organized by probability, to which they carried out. It by no means crossed my thoughts that De Keersmaeker anticipated her solo to satisfy Bach coincidentally, but I couldn’t discover a throughline connecting them. I seen repeated phrases, a number of sequences that joked affectionately with the music, and lots of indications of spatial path in pointing arms, crossed ft and speedy turns of the top. Throughout the one break within the piece, she and Kolesnikov modified their costumes, which she continued to do via the second half. The lighting modified too, from dim to brighter, briefly leaving us in complete darkness to pay attention, enchanted, with out the slightest distraction.

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Pavel Kolesnikov c. Anne Van Aerschot

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Pavel Kolesnikov.

What a disgrace that her regard for Bach’s musical masterpiece and her intention in selecting it by no means emerged clearly. Although my visitor deemed her efficiency brave, it struck me as completely indulgent. She gave the impression to be considering on her ft, attempting out motion in an effort to form it, ultimately, right into a completed work. Lengthy earlier than the tip, the dexterity and delicate grace of Kolesnikov’s palms on the keyboard had turn into much more fascinating to observe.

My due to the readers who’ve loved my work within the Dancing Instances for a few years. I’ll be writing frequently right here, to which you’ll subscribe without spending a dime. I hope you’ll take pleasure in these items too.

Images by Anne Van Aerschot.

Barbara Newman

Barbara Newman’s books about ballet embody Grace underneath Strain; The Illustrated Ebook of Ballet Tales for kids; a quantity of interviews, Placing a Steadiness, and its follow-up, By no means Removed from Dancing. She has written for Dancing Instances since 1984 and served because the dance critic for Nation Life from 1990 to 2016. She archives all her work at http://barbaranewmandance.internet

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