November 14-20, 2002
Dancers often say, “My body is my instrument,” but I’ve yet to see anybody evoke that sentiment the way Nacho Duato does in Bach: Multiplicity, choreographed for his Spanish troupe, Compañia Nacional de Danza. In an early segment, a male performer wields a bow and proceeds to brush it across a female dancer sitting on his lap. The man, dressed in Baroque period costume complete with powdered wig, represents the composer J.S. Bach, and the woman, whose back and legs elegantly bend and fold to the motions of the bow, represents a cello, the sound of which is heard in the accompanying “Prelude.” As “Prelude” picks up steam, so does the man’s bowing; meanwhile, the woman rises up to dance around the composer, who attempts to contain her with grasping strokes. Fun to watch just for the action, it’s also a wry means of conveying how Bach struggled to tame his creative muse.
There's plenty more wit in this contemporary ballet created to honor Bach. The piece is peppered with references to the composer's life, seen in characters intended to represent his wife and children. The second half of the work, an introspective elegy titled "Forms of Silence and Emptiness," based on Bach's final work, "The Art of the Fugue," deals with death. Even so, there is no obvious story line. Instead, the 22 segments that make up Multiplicity are designed to embody moods and compositional structures of the different musical selections.
Duato picks up on the mathematics of Bach, situating dancers in lines or sending them on diversionary offshoots in sync with the music. Their gestures, angular yet immensely fluid, ebb and flow in time to the music, but are otherwise largely abstract.
The stage set -- a scaffold with a zigzag of ramps fronted by a curvy flexible façade -- serves as a metaphor for the architecture of Bach's works, where melodic lines continuously fold and unfold.
Most impressive is that the associations with the intricacies of Bach are seamless -- that is, they are there for those astute enough to appreciate them, but Multiplicity is a visual delight regardless of how attuned one might be to the musical references. Ultimately, Duato sets Bach's heart and soul to movement.