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ReadingcropLizzi Kew Ross and Co.’s Reading with Bach brings us dancers and musicians into the territory of books. Reading with Bach is a kind of excavation, where the real and imagined worlds collide. Through movement and music, we watch, see, listen, engage and speculate on that strange, solitary act that is reading.

For what is it to hold and handle the physical reality of a book? What is it to read – to turn the page and be led into minds, bodies, objects, space, architecture, netherworlds, underworlds and other worlds? What is to be charmed, seduced or even bludgeoned by language, images and actions? All this happens in our imaginations, and we construct these worlds within ourselves.

As in the act of dying, we read alone. Each person’s experience is solitary, individual, and unique: the list of books we read, re-read, wish for and avoid is as personal as a fingerprint.

Reading with Bach, with three dancers and two live violinists, was developed from choreographer Lizzi Kew Ross’s Walking and Talking Books events, where participants discussed one of a series of books while walking a number of interconnected routes through the City of London. It gave Lizzi the chance to observe people as they walked among crowds, closing themselves off from the exterior world by reading, in an interior world of their own. What is it to read – to turn the page and be led into other worlds? Not only do we construct these worlds within ourselves, but what we imagine can become so vivid that the real and the imagined collide.

Lizzi Kew Ross asks, “can I, as a choreographer, through dance and music, explore the notion of public and private with the world of books and Bach as a starting point? As soon as the dancer opens the book on stage, we go into her head, we hear the music she hears and as she is lifted up reading, she is taken by them on a journey. But who is leading whom? Are they figments of her imagination, characters in the book she is reading, or are they, as in Shelley’s Frankenstein, manipulating her vision and writing the page before she reads it? We will play with the rhythm of this dynamic, asking the audience to ‘read’ the work in a variety of ways.”

Composer Ruth Elder notes, “When choosing the particular extracts from Bach’s music to incorporate into my score, I looked to his solo violin works and found the Chaconne in D minor [BWV 1004] is a piece that really speaks to me. I often find it playing in my head even if I haven’t physically played it for a long time. After choosing the pieces, I then had to create my own extended sound worlds inspired by Bach’s piece. I thought of those composers in 1720 deciding against attempting a ciacona for the violin and realized what a task it would be to create these links that would transcend from Bach’s music to my own material and for them to sound integrated and organic without disrupting the mastery of Bach’s compositions.”

– Lizzi Kew Ross and Co.

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