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North-East tour notes
An introduction to Concerto barocco
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What's on

North-East tour spring 2008

King's Lynn Corn Exchange
29 - 30 April 2008

Durham Gala
6 - 7 May 2008

York Theatre Royal
9 - 10 May 2008

Click here for a full diary of performances and links for how to book.

Full performance diary

Click here for performance listings.

An introduction to Concerto barocco

According to Balanchine, unquestionably the most musical choreographer of the 20th century, 'the only preparation possible for this ballet is a knowledge of music, for Concerto barocco has no 'subject matter' beyond the score to which it is set and the particular dancers who execute it'.

Those who performed it on 29 May 1941 at Hunter College Theatre, New York, were members of what was then called American Ballet Caravan, a forerunner of New York City Ballet, and both dancers and choreographer were widely admired for the way the visual images were seen to complement the music.

The concerto in D minor was composed by Johann Sebastian Bach while he was engaged as Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold Anhalt-C÷then between 1717 and 1723 and is his only work for two violins and string orchestra. Bach's engagement at this Court was a happy one, for the Prince was a musical enthusiast who maintained an accomplished orchestra and was himself a proficient performer on the violin, viola da gamba and keyboard. He recognised Bach's talent, enjoyed his music and paid him well.

In the first movement the curtain rises on eight girls on stage who variously dance as one or two groups and in duets, all measured closely to the music but independent of its detail. Balanchine reflects Bach's two solo violins with two ballerinas who enter as the solo violinists begin to play.

The ballerinas become part of the dance orchestration, with or apart from the corps de ballet, and leave the stage as the second movement begins. Here one ballerina returns with a male partner who leads her in and out among the supporting ensemble, and repeatedly lifts her high over his head as the music rises to its climax. Finally, in the last movement the dancers seem to respond almost spontaneously to the warp and weft of the musical textures and its theme, when all the dancers kneel as if in homage to what has been heard.

Concerto barocco entered the repertory of what was then Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet on 26 August 1977, and has also been danced by the Royal Ballet School and in the 1990s by Scottish Ballet as well as being a calling-card for various visiting dance companies to Britain.



Birmingham Royal Ballet perform Concerto Barocco as part of the 2008 tour of the North and East. Click here for more information.
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