A year in the making, Bach in Motion premieres on July 5 as a transformational venture by Oregon Bach Festival, DanceAbility International, and the University of Oregon Dance Department. This unconventional and beautiful project pulls together people of all types and abilities to showcase how music can transcend and relate to everyone everywhere.
The audience will connect Bach’s aspirational sense of humanity to expressions of self-discovery and the equity of humanity beyond the perceived limitations of physical form.
Building the ‘Bach Pastiche’
Oregon Bach Festival asked recognized Bach instrumentalist, conductor, and researcher Koji Otsuki to head this project. He examined Bach’s massive list of works, pairing them down to those that fit the theme of a “Bach pastiche”. The result is a new work that will be told through the lens of dance with DanceAbility International and the University of Oregon Dance Department.
Koji struggled at first with the Bach in Motion project because he doesn’t believe in adding anything to Bach’s music.
“For this program to work, I believe you need to have a good, solid hypothesis to support the idea … not to create a new work but to embody something Bach would have used in a bigger picture,” he says.
Many of Bach’s works are written in the language of dance, Koji says. He was writing works based on French or French-inspired dances, and though some might not have specific instructions, these Bach works had the idiom of dance music. This is why this project of combining dance and Bach seemingly worked well, but choosing the pieces was the difficult part.
Despite the difficulty, Koji had the excuse to listen to Bach nonstop.
“I don’t get tired listening to Bach,” he said. “My mental health was at the best during that period when I was working on this project because I was listening to so many different Bach pieces and so many different movements … although I was really sleep deprived … those were the really happy days.”
Adding The Movement And Accessibility
DanceAbility International co-founder Alito Alessi is working with Oregon Bach Festival Executive Director Janelle McCoy and University of Oregon Dance Professor Shannon Mockli to combine music, movement, and awareness.
Alito Alessi believes all people should have an opportunity to express themselves, no matter their level of ability or skill. DanceAbility’s philosophy is that all people are taught to dance without isolating anyone, and people’s conditions are not problems.
“Isolation and separation are the problems to solve, and DanceAbility does just that,” Alito says.
Alito continues to find inspiration through his work in the field and immersing himself in an honest reflection of society.
“These experiences – yours, other people’s, and the community at large – are taken on stage. The people watching are doing more than just that, they are sensing and feeling the performers, and they also are moved by the nature of dance and what it could do as a form of expression, no matter the ability,” he says.
This collaborative and transformational venture brings a collection of Bach’s finest works to life through movement, as the dancers connect Bach’s aspirational sense of humanity with expressions of self-discovery and the equality of humanity beyond the perceived limitations of physical form. The dancers (including OU dance professor Shannon Mockli) will be accompanied by soprano Julia Sophie Wagner, mezzo-soprano Sarah Mesko, tenor Colin Ainsworth, bass-baritone Kenneth Overton, and the OBF Orchestra and Chamber Choir, led by the conductor Jane Glover.
An informal pre-concert discussion will begin at 6:30PM Friday, July 5, with KWAX radio host Peter van de Graaff and Mobility International USA Founder Susan Sygall in The Studio, Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Eugene, Oregon. Then at 7:30PM in Silva Concert Hall, Hult Center for the Performing Arts, see the premiere of Bach in Motion.