Hamer Hall, Melbourne
March 14, 2013
By Paul Ransom.
Doing headspins to Bach and having it time out perfectly is a pretty cool trick. In fact, the whole cross-century, multi-genre mash-up that is Red Bull Flying Bach is something to behold.
However, the idea can wear thin; and Flying Bach veers dangerously close to novelty and pastiche. Whilst there is no doubting the imaginative and technical bravura of it all, nor the extraordinary athleticism of the seven b-boys, the marriage of JS Bach and break dance is certainly a little strained.
That said, there are moments throughout when the match is eye-poppingly brilliant. Artistic Director Christoph Vagel and choreographer Vartan Bassil have managed to create a palette of moves and motifs that allow for both b-boy virtuosity and a more structured formalism. The inclusion of Japanese ballerina Yui Kawaguchi adds classical grace and a love interest narrative. It also serves to highlight the technical rigour of both break dance and ballet; and this in turn creates many of the show’s most satisfying moments.
But of course it’s the sheer weirdness of popping and locking to the busy contrapuntal timings of Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier that keeps grabbing your attention. Technically, you expect it to fall apart – but it doesn’t. Indeed, Flying Bach also finds time to reference Viennese court dances and contemporary phrasing over its seventy minute journey. There dance subtleties in this work that are not evident in the promo blurb and they give the night some backbone.
Strangely though, there are several flat spots during the show. The ‘comic’ elements border on embarrassing and the lengthy (if cleverly executed) projection sequence breaks the trance.
Of the elastic, energetic, vertabrae defying moves of Benny Kimoto and his international crew you can only say good things. Okay, it’s not totally ‘street’, but then neither is Flying Bach. Their muscular, masculine swagger is matched by great technique and, in this instance, executed with restraint and purpose.
In spite of the fact that it’s more trickery than genuine inspiration, Flying Bach is a palpably disciplined work. It avoids the obvious lure of nightclub lighting or excessive remixing and allows the ‘purity’ of both Bach and breakdance to show themselves to good effect.
(I wonder what JS would make of it?)