Dance With Bach
The Sebastians present:
Friday, May 20, 7:30pm
Saturday, May 21, 2pm
Saturday, May 21, 7:30pm
Good Shepherd-Faith Presbyterian Church
152 West 66th Street
Seating is limited. Advance purchase strongly recommended. Get your tickets HERE.
In 2019, I was commissioned by The Sebastians—a jewel of New York’s growing baroque music scene and one of the finest baroque chamber ensembles anywhere—to create three new ballets all set to major scores by the band’s namesake composer, J. S. Bach. Performances were scheduled to crown the ensemble’s annual New York City concert series in May–June 2020. What a thrill! What an honor! What a challenge! What an opportunity! And what a disappointment to my dancers and me when rehearsals came to dead halt on Friday, March 13, 2020, as NYC careened into lockdown.
We are so fortunate that The Sebastians have recommissioned the program and rescheduled it for May 20–21, 2022. Starting up again has meant reimagining the dances and rediscovering the music. And what music!
In my life as a choreographer, I have usually avoided well-known masterpieces in favor of lesser-known works, thinking that I serve our audience better as an advocate for music and composers that I think deserve a wider hearing. But this project compels me to confront Bach’s genius head-on. All three of the scores chosen by The Sebastians richly deserve their fame: the Suite no. 6 for Solo Cello (BWV 1012), the “English” Suite no. 5 (BWV 810), and the Orchestral Suite in B minor (BWV 1067). I am the kind of listener for whom Bach’s secular music, and his solo chamber scores in particular, feel like his holiest work, and I have loved the cello suites and all the solo keyboard music since I was a teenager. And almost everyone knows the Orchestral Suite, which includes one of Bach’s most popular tunes of all time. Yet choreographing the music now leads me deep inside in a way that nothing else could.
The Sebastians’ purpose in devising this program is to explore how Bach reimagined the conventions of the French baroque dance suite—which was invented by the composers at the French court for actual dancing—in his own terms. Although Bach never intended any of his suites to be danced, in rhythmical and dramatic terms, they are all entirely danceable. I treat each score as its own realm, but imagine that all three are connected as if by secret tunnels that allow dancers from one ballet to visit the others. The cello suite is a seriously playful dance for one man and two women—will he choose one or the other? The English suite I set as an intimate duet for two men—in which the women from the first ballet make a surprise appearance. And the Orchestral suite features one couple framed by seven wonderful student dancers from one of New York’s finest ballet schools, the school of New York Theatre Ballet—who help me bring out both the score’s insouciant lightheartedness and its gravity.s
Seating for these performances is on all four sides of the space, evoking early French court dance. Please join us!