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Red Bull Flying Bach

Red Bull Reporter is a nationwide search to find the best young music & culture, and sports writers, filmmakers, photographers and presenters, giving them the chance of a lifetime: to use their skills and indulge their passions as a Red Bull Reporter.

Red Bull Flying Bach is a unique clash of cultures which took place in Berlin.The recipe is simple. Take classical music like Johann Sebastian Bach’s “The Well-Tempered Clavier”, add one of the best B-Boy groups in the world, the Flying Steps and a performance in one of the most famous concert halls in Berlin, the “Neue Nationalgallerie”.

Here at Flavour Mag you might remember we let you know about the Red Bull Reporter assignment opportunity for an aspiring journalist to capture the best moments of Red Bull Flying Bach in April and meet the Flying Steps. Natalie Meziani impressed the Red Bull Reporter Editorial team with examples of her writing, and was chosen to attend the event as a Red Bull Reporter.

We’ve tied up with Red Bull Reporter to bring you the exclusive article from Natalie and you can check it out below…

If you fancy becoming a Red Bull Reporter there are plenty of new sports, music and culture related upcoming assignments all over the world you could be going to – just head to www.redbullreporter.com to sign up and start submitting!

‘The Red Bull Flying Bach’ at the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin.

Eager spectators queue outside the clear glass walls of Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie. They gaze into the venue to see the elegantly decorated carpet and the shadow of a deserted stage. They sip Red Bull and mojitos from the outdoor bar, murmuring with an enchanted excitement. The Red Bull Flying Bach is nearing the end of its schedule but the crowd does not appear to be shrinking; it seems the evening is expected to maintain its newfound reputation and the promise of a diverse artistic display.

Red Bull Flying Bach is the latest project from opera director Christoph Hagel, experimenting with a crossover between classical Bach audio and modern urban breakdancing visuals. The ‘Well Tempered Clavier’ was written in 1722 for “the pastime of those already skilled in this study” – luckily for Bach the Flying Steps are much more than ‘skilled’, as they move with an extra-terrestrial ability and project the splendour of an emerging butterfly.

The sell-out crowd of over 500 contains an eclectic mix of grandparents, parents, children and teenagers. They are seated to the mesmerising sound of Hagel’s graceful piano, showing that he is every bit a gifted musician. As the lights grow dim, a single spotlight forces the audience to look towards the building’s glass wall backdrop – there is a girl outside and she is arching her back like a cat.

The show starts unconventionally as it means to go on, with female dancer Yui moving like liquid satin before the visible Berlin landscape. She rocks and glides outside the Neue Nationalgalerie windows, before running out of view to make way for her five male partners on the indoor stage before us. Inside, a young man balances on one hand and spins his entire body in perfect 360-degree turns. Limbs fly between dancers and the floor in a constant array of impossible combinations. It’s effortless. Lil’ Ceng shows some down-rocking in a brief unaccompanied slot, proving why he came 3rd place out of 16 competitors in the 2008 Red Bull BC-1 competition.

Hagel wants his performances to integrate contemporary life and haute couture; he wants to make Bach wear Nike Hi-Top trainers in a devastating shade of orange and spit beats at his 18th century contemporaries. Various past projects have included a performance of ‘The Magic Flute’ in a German subway station and a disco version of ‘Don Giovani’ – his mind is overflowing with rose-tinted musical jewels. And tonight, the numerous melodious voices of Bach’s fugues are flawlessly interpreted by the multi-layered dancing of the Flying Steps.

Red Bull Flying Bach

Legs and arms intertwine without touching a hair on the other dancer’s body, foreheads and fingertips support entire human weight with impeccable control. Hagel explains how “there is a relationship and a similarity between the dance and how Bach works”, and, as the Flying Steps fold nimbly over each other in stuttered motion, it is evident that breakdancing certainly holds a fundamental element which is parallel to Bach’s musical score. Each dancer is a different note on the page; each shoulder movement is timed to a key on Hagel’s piano.

Visual projections are used to confirm that the performance before us is in fact a highly constructed piece of art. The walls on either side of the stage are filled with pre-recorded clips of the Flying Steps and dancing imagery of blue and orange fire. Neon reflections on the glass window of a ‘McDonald’s’ logo and hotel lights show signs of the real world outside, but the audience have been taken somewhere else by this artistic adventure.

The recurring theme of a subtle love story acted through dance represents the pinnacle of Baroque composition, only this time the 18th-century instruments are strengthened by frenzied pulses of graceful bodies across a minimalistic black stage. Benny and Yui underpin the group exhibition with solo pieces which unravel an interpretative tale, while the rest of the Flying Steps incorporate humour and a communication of thorough enjoyment.

Modern samples of Bach are re-worked and pumped out through stage-side speakers which accompany Hagel on the piano and Sabina Chukurova on the harpsichord. Vattan’s claim that each member “needs to find his own personality in the dance” is displayed constantly in this Berlin gallery – KC-1 stands on his head and spins like your favourite 7” vinyl record; Mikel performs power moves in time to the up-tempo Bach remix; Lil-Ceng winks at somebody in the front row as he casually throws his weight onto one hand. It is clear that breakdancing is an underrated art.

After the show the Flying Steps’ manager confesses that their faultless seventy-minute performance took a mere twelve weeks to produce and rehearse. Two words that are prominent in the dancers’ vocabulary are ‘passion’ and ‘respect’, and Vartan tells me how one of the main reasons they perform is to bring all these people together to share their gift. As Vartan claims – The Flying Steps are not just break dancing “like a sport”, they are artists too.

Words by Natalie Meziani

 

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