In The Goldberg Variations dancers Oskar Stalpaert (Platform-K), Michiel Vandevelde and Audrey Merilus set out to use compositions by Bach and choreography by Paxton to expand the possibilities of dance and answer a question. How open, democratic and accessible is dance today? The Goldberg Variations are played on the accordion by Philippe Thuriot.
The Goldberg Variations refers to the famous musical composition by J.S. Bach but also to an iconic dance solo by Steve Paxton. Dancers Oskar Stalpaert (Platform-K), Michiel Vandevelde and Audrey Merilus work with both of these. Together they take a close look at the development over forty years of all kinds of improvisation in dance. Where is dance today? How open, democratic and accessible is dance today? Which body images do we tend to choose, which would we prefer not to see?
The music is performed on the accordion by Philippe Thuriot, who, in 2015, transposed Bach’s music to the accordion. Thuriot himself is the result of an exciting cross-pollination of classical music, jazz and his parents’ bar.
The polyphony of the numerous variations in Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’ is also reflected in the various layers of this dance performance. A reflection on the condition of dance today and on the various shapes and forms of physicality.
The scenography is in the hands of photographer and visual artist Tom Callemin. The visual material used magnifies the similarities and differences between the dancers.
‘The Goldberg Variations’ promises to be a layered dance performance in which not only the condition of dance is reflected on but also the various forms and shapes of physicality (body of a ballet dancer, of a dancer with a disability, of a contemporary dancer) and the accompanying intimacy.
The Goldberg Variations relates to Vandevelde’s previous work, in particular ‘Ends of Worlds’ and ‘Neuer Neuer Neuer Tanz’. These two choreographies both take dance history as their initial starting point but are two very different kinds of performances. ‘Ends of Worlds’ is a journey through various modern and contemporary dance forms from the 20th century (from Isadora Duncan, Kurt Jooss, Anne Hailprin, Steve Paxton and Trisha Brown to the influence of digital technology on choreography today). In ‘Neuer Neuer Neuer Tanz’ the same dance material is the starting point but it is mutated into a new ‘dance of the future’. For ‘The Goldberg Variations’ Vandevelde wants, in particular, to dwell on that crucial moment in the seventies, the development of (contact) improvisation dance, of which Steve Paxton more or less became the pioneer. In addition, as one of the layers in the performance, he wishes to ask the question how the democratisation of dance in the seventies is doing today. Vandevelde’s thesis is that we have experienced a new wave of total professionalisation in the last ten years and this has to be broken open again, not by demolishing certain forms but by bringing various bodies together.
All images @TomCallemin
July-Aug 2020: Theater Aan Zee
January 2021: Concert Hall, Bruges
March 2021: CC Geel
Co-production: Vooruit and Kaap
Choreography: Michiel Vandevelde
Dance: Oskar Stalpaert, Michiel Vandevelde and Audrey Merilus (or Amanda Barrio Charmelo) Music: Philippe Thuriot (or Vincent Van Amsterdam)
Visual design: Tom Callemin
Costume: Tutia Schaad
Dramaturgy: Kristof van Baarle
Technical support: Ferre Carron
With the support of: Flemish Government, National Lottery, City of Ghent, Konekt, King Baudouin Foundation
With thanks to: Campo and Kaaitheater