Published: Thursday March 13, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday March 13, 2014 MYT 10:03:00 AM

Bach to the dance: Composer's baroque music gets new shoes

Music and movement come together in this work that explores the merging of Bach’s works with contemporary dance.

SHE reaches for a paper napkin and draws a grid. Beside it, she adds two parallel lines, and to its right, another two lines with a squiggle between them.

“That’s Bach, Mozart and Beethoven,” she says, pointing first to the grid as a representation of Bach’s music, then moving on to the other two in succession.

Tan E-Jan captures with simple sketches the ambience of these great composers as she feels it.

And it is such emotions that Tan and Ng Chor Guan, the founders of Toccata Studio in Petaling Jaya, Selangor want to tap into with their latest offering, Moving Bach.

Described by the duo as a conversation between baroque music and contemporary dance, this production explores the possibilities that come with the merging of old (baroque music) with new (contemporary dance).

“Putting together something like this is a challenge for everyone involved in this production,” says Tan, producer of Moving Bach. “Rehearsals are interesting because the working process of the dancers and musicians are so different. They have different approaches. To work together, they need to find a balance ... or maybe we don’t want that balance!”

Dancer/choreographer Steve Goh (left) and Dylan Lee on cello, presenting Bach's Cello Suite in the first set of Moving Bach by Toccata Studio.
Dancer/choreographer Steve Goh (left) and Dylan Lee on cello, presenting Bach’s Cello Suite in the first set of Moving Bach by Toccata Studio.

For it is through freedom of expression that Bach, for the purpose of this production, truly comes alive.

“We would like to see how living musicians and dancers intepret music that’s over 300 years old with contemporary movements,” says Tan of the production comprising three sets.

Moving Bach features JS Bach’s Cello Suite in the first set, and Chaconne in the second, among the most well-known works of the prolific German composer.

The unpredictability of combining music from a time long past with contemporary dance is not just embraced, but actively encouraged, in Moving Bach. The production will feature Dylan Lee on cello and Tan Su Yin on marimba, accompanied by dancers/choreographers Steve Goh and Aida Redza, respectively, in the first two sets.

“This is the first time Dylan and Su Yin are working with dancers, so they have to not just play music, but also find a way to connect with Steve and Aida,” says artistic director Ng, who will join the group of four in the third set of the production, which includes improvisation on elements from the first and second set.

He describes the third set as an “electro-acoustic experience” with sound sampling and remixes complementing the cello and marimba.

“Those who have been through a formal music education will probably be used to an intellectual way of looking at Bach’s works,” Ng comments, adding that the production hopes to demonstrate that the possibilities are endless, if you strive to look outside the box.

“There is so much more to it than what we were taught, or the way it has ‘always been done’. I’d like people to take an open heart to the performance and explore with us,” says Ng, adding that Toccato Studio – with a performance space that sits 40 people – hopes to eventually expand Moving Bach into a bigger production.

The production currently clocks in at just under an hour.

“As with most of Tocatta’s productions, we go in with one aim: to encourage the audience to dream of all possibilities, of all that this could be.

“In this particular space, in this one hour at Toccata, what you see, what you hear, and what you feel, just let go and dare to dream,” concludes Tan.

> Moving Bach is showing at Toccata Studio (19B, SS2/55, Petaling Jaya, Selangor) on March 15 (8.30pm) and March 16 (3pm). Admission is by minimum donation of RM30. Call 016-361 8504 or visit for more information.

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, bach, toccata studio, tan e jan, ng chor guan


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