Powerful Propulsion

In "Bach Dances," Rioult pairs masterful movement with intense music.


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Photo by Basil Childers

Why is it that when we think of Johann Sebastian Bach, we think of polite audiences sitting quietly, nodding in silent appreciation, and clapping politely? The perfectionist composer created scores that reflected his own stormy passions; once in a fury, he threw his wig at a fellow musician he deemed inferior, and as a church organist in Arnstadt, he compared a choral singer’s performance to a goat bleating, an insult that drove the victim to attack Bach with a stick. So definitely a passionate guy.

The same perfectionist streak runs through the work of Pascal Rioult, who has choreographed some of Bach’s most famous pieces in Bach Dances. An obsessive choreographer who constantly pushes himself and his dancers to expand to new heights of creativity with unusual projects, Rioult was a principal dancer in the Martha Graham Dance Company and a cohort of luminaries like Mikhail Baryshnikov before starting his own company. 

To Rioult, music isn’t something to be experienced passively. It’s something that needs to be paired with movement. From the Greek tragedy of Iphigenia to the bombastic bullfight music of Bolero, he finds material that stirs the passions and gives freedom to that fire through dance. In Bach Dances, Rioult has choreographed a complete set of dances to the classic composer’s best-beloved musical pieces, including Violin Sonata in G Major and Brandenburg Concerto No. 6, for his troupe RIOULT Dance NY.

May 6, 8 p.m., May 7, 3 p.m., 7 p.m., tickets start at $78, 101 Zellerbach Hall #4800, UC Berkeley, Berkeley. CalPerformances.org.

 

Published online on May 2, 2017 at 8:00 a.m.

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