M is For … (and Win Free Tickets)
420People and The Berg prove that M is not only for music, but also for movement – a captivating mélange for viewers.
The mid-December premiere of M is For … offered audiences a quirky but fascinating early Christmas gift when the Berg Orchestra teamed up with dance ensemble 420People. And now this team is wrapping up their package to be opened again on Feb 20, just after Valentine’s Day.
The first half of this richly varied program presents the Berg Orchestra playing to a video backdrop by Peter Greenaway in M is for Man, Music, Mozart.The video unrolls metaphors, movement, symbols, singing, and visuals for each letter of the alphabet to the music created by Dutch composer Louis Andriessen.
Things roll along quite merrily, alphabetically, until the action comes to the letter M. Here things take a sharp turn as God creates Man, gives him Movement, and therefore creates the need for Music. Perhaps perfect music, thereby also creating the need for a Mozart.
The piece is performed with a 13-member wind ensemble, piano, and double bass, with guest soloist Markéta Cukrová, conducted by Peter Vrábel.
In the second half of the program, Resonance in Walking Distance, the contemporary dance ensemble 420People takes over. Well, not so much takes over, as merges with members of the Berg Orchestra. Here you get to see choreographer Nataša Novotná’s typical sense of design, balance, movement, and humor, set in motion by original music by Jan Trojan. The meaning is up to each individual viewer. But there’s always some vignette of movement, and it’s always just the perfect thing.
Throughout the piece, several members of the Berg Orchestra become props for the dancers (playing while lying on the floor or lifted onto a box, for example), or dance themselves. In one brilliant moment, conductor Vrábel even turns his back on the musicians and faces the audience while continuing to conduct.
The piece culminates when dozens of ping pong balls magically align themselves into a kind of necklace, and hundreds more escape their hiding place, rolling silently across the stage. You have to see the piece yourself to really enjoy the movement leading up to this special effect.
Dance, Breaking Down Walls
420People is one of a few performance groups that consistently tries to break down the fourth wall separating the audience from the art, by holding an audience Q+A session immediately after performances. So, we asked them if it was difficult to teach the musicians to dance.
“It was a great cooperation,” choreographer/dancer Novotná tells the audience. “The musicians were really keen to make it, to try different things.” At the first of only six rehearsals, she was worried that the musicians wouldn’t feel free to move around and would just stop and stand still. “We had to concentrate on getting them to move to the right place,” she says, but soon they were improvising naturally, even picking up and carrying Ms Novotná like an instrument.
“Yeah, all the members (of the Berg Orchestra) wanted to carry Nataša themselves,” saxophonist Irvin Venyš interjects, as the audience chuckles.
“Thank you,” she smiles.
Can audiences expect to see the same show on Feb 20 as that which premiered Dec 11-12? “Some changes in small details will probably arise each time,” Ms Novotná tells Opus Osm. “In every case the premiere is always the starting point. Our second show was already a little more compact, I thought.”
She adds, “Both nights afterwards people stayed at the bar (at The New Stage) in a good and chatty mood, so I guess the vibes were good.” — oo
The Berg Orchestra and 420People reprises the performance Feb 20 at 8 pm at The New Stage (Nová Scéna). To enter the drawing for free tickets courtesy of 420People and Opus Osm, see the box, above.
– Mary Matz
Photo Credits: Miroslav Setnička