B is for Bach…and breakdancing? Not so surprising, says Uwe Donaubauer, aka B-Boy Real, one of the dancers with the German troupe Flying Steps. Houston marks the last stop of the United States tour for the crew's high-energy show, Red Bull Flying Bach, which reinvents Johann Sebastian Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier by adding a back story with romance, urban beats and power moves.
South African Donaubauer, who joined the Flying Steps in 2010, says that, for a b-boy and dancer, every piece of music is an emotion that makes him move. “Before Bach, there was Vivaldi's Four Seasons, or Mozart. They gave vibes; it was interesting to move.” What he finds most amazing is how well the preludes and fugues, composed in the 1700s and often paired with ballet, translate to the high-energy moves of the urban dance crew.
Each of the b-boy dancers – Spider, Bboy Tim, Rayboom, Punisher, Nono, Lil Rock, Lou-Ease, Willy, Yamine, Mikel, KC-1, Lil' Ceng and Benny – has his own style, as do female dancers Anna Holmström, Ya-Chun Tsai and Yui Kawaguchi. “You'll have high energy,” says Donaubauer. “You will feel like the music really fits our crew because we are the voices of Bach. The idea of what Bach was making with the music, it fits to the character of each dancer.”
While the stage is sparse – just a piano, a harpsichord and visual effects – Flying Steps founder Vartan Bassil enriched the production by establishing a back story about six dancers and a teacher in a classroom. Deciding to use Bach's music was the brainchild of Christoph Hagel, an opera conductor who serves as artistic director for the troupe. Arguments, disappointments and joy occur in synchronicity as Bach's musical notes hit their highs and lows. A mysterious woman enters, and conflict results on a macro level (contemporary dance versus breakdance) and on a more personal level (will the new couple experience desire and curiosity or arrogance and refusal).
Choreography is by Bassil, with Kawaguchi choreographing the contemporary dance moves. Bach's score is updated with modern, electronic music by brothers Ketan and Vivan Bhatti.
Red Bull Flying Bach has performed in 31 countries around the world and Donaubauer says there's a big difference between United States audiences and European audiences. “If we're doing a solo or quartet, most of the time people go crazy. The Americans will go, 'Ooh, that's fresh. Go girl, come on, go get him.' The dancing is more alive; they are there in the moment,” says Donaubauer. “The Europeans, they wait until the end of the number.”
The crew keeps up its energy by sticking to a (mostly) vegetarian diet, noticing that eating darker meats makes them feel sluggish and weighed down. Donaubauer says it's been a little more difficult to eat well in the United States. "You want to try that burger and the exotic foods," and he's developed a fondness for Caesar salads. "Also there are days when we just don't care," through it never takes them long to burn it off.
Performances are scheduled on January 20 and 21 at 8 p.m., January 22 at 2 p.m. at The Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-315-2525 or visit redbullflyingbach.com. $29.50 to $79.50.
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