Mitten wir im Leben sind / Bach6Cellosuiten at Sadler’s Wells
If you appreciate Bach and you love dance, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s Mitten wir im Leben sind/ Bach6Cellosuiten provides a stimulating and intriguing marriage thereof. Together with famed French cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras, the choreographer has created an etude of this 18th-century genius via movement.
The classical composer’s music is characteristically dry and intellectual while also sublimely beautiful, and Queyras’s interpretation of his ravishing masterpiece Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello is devastatingly brilliant and a joy to hear. Fused with the visual of modern ballet – an unusual way to experience Bach – it is an exercise for the mind and the senses.
Five dancers, including Keersmaeker, compose the ensemble with solos, duets and a vibrant number as a group. Over the course of two hours, periods of silent performance give way to the juxtaposition of lofty melodies with the contemporary sensibilities of the work’s physicality – a meeting of two very different genres, contrasting eras and styles. The result translates into a timeless suspension of the here and now, removed from standard definitions, a manifestation of pure art, philosophy and meditation – after all, one of the purposes of artistic expression is to reach beyond to something more, to challenge us.
The show is geometrically inspired, patterns drawn and taped on the stage and the movement often resembling mathematical equations with Keersmaeker’s systematic signals and dancers enacting repetitive motion, such as sautés-en-arrière and fetal coiling. It is calculated: Bach is made visible through every rhythmic gesture.
Costumes are casual, even drab, perhaps to downplay individual lustre and highlight the integrity of virtuosity and intellect. The lighting is superb, creating a painterly aura. The performers – Keersmaeker, Antončič, Goudot, Monty and Pomero – are excellent. Queyras’s cello renditions are particularly magnificent.
As art, rather than pure entertainment, Mitten wir im Leben sind asks for an open mind and focus, and it is best absorbed by letting it unfold rather than seeking to immediately understand it. A compelling symbiosis of music and dance, the work yields a thought-provoking and creatively fascinating two hours.
Mitten wir im Leben sind / Bach6Cellosuiten was at Sadler’s Wells from 24th April until 25th April 2019.