Benjamin Millepied and his LA Dance Project are in the midst of a Bach odyssey in their downtown performance space with their latest, epic version of an evening length piece titled I fall, I flow, I melt. A multi-section work for his heterogenous ensemble of 12 dancers, the 75 minute performance encompasses music drawn from Bach’s chamber, keyboard, and liturgical genres in a strategic mix that makes you think the music was conceived for the purpose at hand. Opening with the magnificent triple chorus from St. Matthew Passion (“Daughters, Hear My Lament” ) and closing with a cathedral rattling version of the C minor Passacaglia for organ, the interior of I fall, I flow, I melt embraces four movements of the second D minor Partita for solo violin (the Sarabanda was missing this time around), a suite of three gauzy, introspective solo violin miniatures by David Lang, plus the “Our Common Fate” excerpt from his “Our National Anthems” for voices and string quartet. All of it was presented in the round, buoyed up beautifully with violinist Etienne Gara playing the partita and the Lang pieces for violin from a dais against the back wall of the performance space.
. . .Taylor and Hicks gave fine performances in their duo of interlocking flowing and falling. . .
It was an evening in which the movement unified the music, continually renewing the admonitions of fall, flow, melt; not ballet, not shapes and moves we’ve seen before but an imaginative syncretizing of old and new music with contemporary movement. The Bach works are part of older choreography. David Lang’s music has been newly integrated into the whole, with a choral piece and a suite of solo violin works that recast Bach’s music in modern models. His miniatures for the violin– he calls them Mystery Sonatas–steer in an entirely different direction. They are more instrumental soundscapes (reminiscent of Arvo Pärt and his tintinnabulation music) than the familiar structures and tunes of the partita and come with less in the way of auditory baggage and expectation.
Millepied has been especially adept capturing the scale of the big pieces–the St. Matthew Passion chorus, the Chaconne from the partita, and the organ Passacaglia–with the constant motion of the company dancing together in big, seething ensembles. The opening chorus captures the anguished lament of the text. Danced in a circle with chairs as a boundary, dancers fall to the floor as they are momentarily embraced in the classic broken pose of the deposition. The dancing captures the rolling and restless energy of the music which never really comes to resting point until the conclusion.
. . . It was as unexpected as it was thrilling. . .
I had seen the section choreographed to the partita a few months ago. In the current incarnation the original courtly gestures and classical steps of that performance have been removed. It reflects an attempt to free up the dancers by avoiding historically recognizable patterns and shapes, while making, as Millepied says in his notes to the performance, a direct hookup with the music itself. Mostly, that seemed to happen. It was especially good in the slightly more structured Passacaglia in which the dancers finally felt cut loose. It had a terrific ending too, with two files of dancers zippering off the stage at a near run, It was as unexpected as it was thrilling.
The odyssey continues through this weekend. See the LA Dance Project website for ticket and performance information. These are landmark performances. Don’t miss them.
(Costumes were by Alessandro Sartori. Lighting design was by Benjamin Millepied. You can read a review of the previously performed Bach Studies here.)