Natalie Meziani interviews Christoph Hagel, musical director of Red Bull Flying Bach – a 70 minute performance series. This unique show sees a crossover of classical music and break dancing with a dance troupe ‘breaking’ to the legendary composer Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier”. Launched in Berlin, Christoph Hagel is on the on the piano alongside talented musicians on other musical instruments and six dancers from the Flying Steps dancing troupe. Here he tells Red Bull reporter Natalie why he used Bach’s music.
NM: You were trained by Leonard Bernstein in New York, is that right?
CH: A little bit, yes.
NM: What was that like, how did that experience help you?
CH: Well it wasn’t in New York, I was in Vienna and he was in the north of Germany, but yes I did see him and it was great! He was a great teacher, there was good contact with artists, and it was a great time for me and well…two years after this he died.
NM: Oh how awful, I’m sorry…
CH: Yes and this was then a bad time, and that’s the story.
NM: Bernstein wrote the West Side story didn’t he?
CH: Yes, but I didn’t write anything like this with him.
NM: It took me a while to realise that the title ‘Flying Bach’ is a mix between ‘Flying Steps’ and ‘Bach’…where did the idea of an artistic crossover come from?
CH: Well, I met them and we decided to do a project together and… we thought about which classical music to use, we did some other things but very quickly I found Bach.
NM: Why Bach?
CH: Because his music works in the same way that they perform. Breakdancing works a little bit like…there is a relationship and a similarity between the dance and how Bach works. The position of the dance and the position of the note on the page.
NM: And you taught them how to dance to the sheet music as well as the sound?
CH: Yes, they go so well together. First I found the Flying Steps and then we found Bach and then it went from there. Then we started it, this was the way.
NM: Are there any difficulties in the way you get your ideas out, such as how it gets taught or received…?
CH: No, they only have to learn how to understand and study the music. Very complicated music. But this we did together very well and then they brought ideas, they developed, we put them together and then we thought ‘Yes, this is good and this is good, and this is not good so let’s not do this’ and so on. It was perfect, the development was perfect.
NM: So they were involved in the process as well?
CH: Of course, of course.
NM: And who is in charge of the choreography?
CH: We do it all together. I am the director of the group but this we did together; we chose, we tried, we changed…
NM: I know you’ve done other projects too…
NM: Wasn’t there one on a subway?
CH: Oh yes, yes. ‘The Magic Flute’.
NM: How did that work? Did people have to buy tickets to get in the station?
CH: Yes, yes, yes, they paid for the performance! It was a little subway, it was not open yet, and yeah…it was the subway underneath the parliament so it was the most important subway station in Germany and nobody had seen it, definitely nobody had seen ‘The Magic Flute’ there. It became a great situation, it was all very funny. But they loved it.
NM: It all sounds really inspiring.
CH: Yes, yes.
NM: Did you ever have any fears, any worries about how the public would receive it?
CH: Oh yes, of course! Of course. But then every artist will.
NM: You really didn’t need to have any worries, it’s a spectacular show.
CH: Haha, well…yes, I was scared but it was all ok. It was good.
NM: Well thank you for your time, and I hope to see more of your work soon!
CH: Indeed, I hope so too!
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