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World premiere of Ferran Cruixent‘s ‘Oscillation‘ in Heidelberg on December 5th, 2020

Hochgeladene Datei

It is encouraging news at the beginning of the new lockdown: The planned world premiere of Ferran Cruixent‘s ballet music ‘Oscillation‘ at the Heidelberg Theater will now be postponed from November 7th to December 5th, 2020.

The ballet, like any large ensemble, such as choirs and orchestras, is also affected by the restricted conditions caused by the coronavirus epidemic. Many theatres have drawn consequences from this and are resorting to reduced dance ensembles. This is also the case with the world premiere of the ballet Oscillation by choreographer Iván Pérez based on the music of Catalan composer Ferran Cruixent, scheduled for 7 November 2020 at the Heidelberg Theatre.

“There will be a video artist”, the Theater Heidelberg announces, “who will prepare the scenes additionally. But this bird’s eye view of the quartet and a duet will be an element of the play and will be projected onto the stage. There can only be 6 dancers on stage at any one time, so we have two casts of the piece - a corona-induced reaction to the current rehearsal conditions.”

Oscillation is the last part of a trilogy by Iván Pérez about the millennium generation. This series looks at those born between 1980 and 2000 through dance, music, and visual arts. After Impression and Dimension, the circle now closes with the new orchestral music by Ferran Cruixent. 

But what makes Ferran Cruixent’s ballet music here so special, is that it was actually written at the height of the crisis in spring 2020. When we asked our composers how they had coped with the crisis, particularly artistically, Ferran Cruixent told us that his ballet music had been strongly influenced by his feelings about the crisis. Cruixent described the style of this music as rather elegiac and thoughtful.

This summer we talked about "Oscillation" with the composer Ferran Cruixent and the choreographer Iván Pérez.

Ferran Cruixent in Interview

1. To what extent has the pandemic affected the music of Oscillation?

Ferran Cruixent: The quarantine caught me during the last phase of the work, so I cannot say that the pandemic has had a particular impact on the music. Nevertheless, the planetary restriction has already given a much broader meaning to the liturgy of the work. “Oscillation” represents a search for the essential, for the love of life. I am especially happy to hear it, to relive this profound phase of my life chapter. This music is for me the unexpected expression of this moment: a piece full of hope. 

2. Why is the music rather quiet? After all, the theme is the millennials, which represent the youth of today?

Ferran Cruixent: The theme “millennials” occupied us mainly during the play Impression (2018), the first part of the trilogy.

Oscillation goes beyond the Millennials and is a composition in an interdisciplinary collaboration with the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the Dance Theatre Heidelberg. The 70-minute work has been divided into 7 coherent movements of varying duration and was inspired by current scientific research into the collective behaviour of cells and their various oscillation processes, especially during the embryonic phase.

As calm as a pregnancy phase seems, so do some parts of the work. According to our feeling, calm perhaps, but the inner microcosm is powerful and enormous. A sum of infinite vibrations. A search for the essential. 

The music induces in some phases a deep, hypnotic and meditative trance to imagine the embryonic feeling (both internal and external) during pregnancy, to feel the energy (in a musical and acoustic way) and the harmonious vibration and resonance of a new life that wants to begin.

Scientific terms like “emergency”, “self-organisation”, “waves”, “coupling”, “detuning” are translated into music. An ultrasound heartbeat motif of the embryo also acts as a special signal during the piece.

In the same way I was partly inspired by vibrating Hindu mantra music: “I am infinity, I belong to it and I contain it. I am you.”

This is precisely the fundamental question that has occupied us: “Do cells really act and think as a collective? Are they aware of it?”

3. How is “Oscillation” cast in the orchestra? Are there special instrumental combinations?

Ferran Cruixent: The piece has a relatively low register: three clarinets, a contrabassoon, three horns, three trumpets, three trombones, a tuba, timpani, percussion, harp, and strings.

In some movements of the work, the orchestration has been the special thing for me.  I looked at each instrument as if they were microscopic cells. The instruments behave, they move rhythmically and melodically, mostly individually, but in combination they create a higher dimension, like particles of water and the sea. The musicians play the small cells. But the audience understands the collective, the whole, because it is in a higher dimension. A sound magma is perceived, at the same time a universe of imperceptible combinations lives inside. That is the magic for me.

4. Does the music have special timbres?

Ferran Cruixent: I take up again the concept of “cyber singing”, in which orchestral instruments are combined with modern technical means, e.g. smartphones. “Cyber singing” defines a new way of interaction between performer and composer. The audio file created by the composer himself is played by the musician from his electronic device, which is usually used for other purposes. This puts his device into a new context and creates a direct communication between the composer and the performer, connecting the social world with the world of artistic communication.

This breaks the previous technological barrier, and the musician becomes a real performer not only at an instrumental but also at an electronic level.

In the beginning of “Oscillation”, recordings of whale songs are played back via the musicians' smartphones. A whole family of whales of different ages sings endless songs, thus opening up the whole dramaturgy of the work. The pace of life of these animals invites us to enjoy a new perspective of our own lives.

This makes the piece very liturgical.

5. Did Iván Pérez talk to you during the work on the score and did he express certain wishes?

Ferran Cruixent: The nice thing is that I was allowed to compose the music before the choreography was created, because there is no libretto as such. This allowed me to conceive my own free dramaturgy. Before that, I laid the foundations with Iván Pérez to work on the ideas resulting from the research carried out at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL). Numerous videoconferences with Dr. Alexander Aulehla (leader of the Aulehla group at EMBL) and the theatre team, led us to an understanding of the different concepts of cellular vibrations, which wonderfully offer a constant parallel to the world of music, because the different acoustic phenomena are defined in the same way in the world of physics. The Aulehla group at EMBL is studying the role of timing during development, in particular how signal dynamics and oscillations control the spatio-temporal pattern formation during embryonic development. Thus, for me, waves have been a reference and inspiration for the whole work. But also the meaning of pregnancy: beyond all the research, there is always the miracle of life in front of us, which for me can be defined as love in all its different layers, because love is also nothing more than vibrating harmoniously together.


Choreographer Iván Pérez in Interview

1. Millennials belong to perhaps the most affected group in this pandemic. How has the Corona crisis changed the concept of your ballet "Oscillation"?

Iván Pérez: This pandemic will mark all the generations experiencing it, but the millennial is specifically the generation that will have to show its creative potential and come up with quick solutions. Firstly, the technological shift deeply affected the millennials, being the first generation embracing the internet and technology as an extension of our bodies. Then, 9/11 disrupted our sense of security and technology became a surveillance tool. At the moment, this generation has to deal with the corona crisis, in which technology is a way to stay connected globally, though forcing us to become locals in our cities, towns and homes due to the lockdown. This crisis has influenced the development of “Oscillation” too, of course. Months ago, I started an interdisciplinary collaboration with the Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in order to question collective behaviour in cells and in humans. For several years, concepts like interpersonal space and forms of communication between bodies have been a part of my research in dance. For me, it was originally very exciting to bring dance and science into a creative dialogue around this new work, though I had no idea how relevant this collaboration would become as the Covid-19 started spreading and our living conditions drastically changed to this degree. Now, after experiencing months of lockdown and spatial restrictions in public spaces, we can all say that we have been a part of a collective study of interpersonal space. We have become, forcefully, masters of the ‘choreography of distance’. This is why “Oscillation” is the last part of a trilogy on the millennial generation, but also a reflection of the current events since March 2020. Therefore, the work investigates new forms of togetherness through dance, music and visual arts.  

 2. Is there a narrative element or is "oscillation" abstract?

Iván Pérez: “Oscillation” is a multi-layered dance performance with live orchestral music and video projection. There is not a narrative attached to it, though we can talk in term of musical, visual and choreographic dramaturgies. I am not a fan of the word abstract because it implies a sense of being cold or unemotional, or even worse, difficult to understand. I would rather use the word visceral, which immediately directs us to the senses and involves the body. I also like to see the work as a collaborative space, even though I am the director. More specifically, the piece derives from conversations between scientists and the artists, whom I carefully chose and bring together because of their expertise and respective sensibilities. Although, most importantly, it develops with the dancers in the studio. With them, it is a collaboration too, in which they have the freedom to bring their vision and ideas, searching together for choreographic practices that would trigger our curiosity and that would shine a light onto the questions at hand: How do cells and collectives work? How do we come together, regardless of imposed social distancing? The team counts with twelve dancers, a choreographic assistant, a composer (Ferran Cruixent, of course!), a dramaturge, several scientists, creative producers, a costume designer, stage designer, visual artist, video editors, etc. For me, everyone influences the work in one way or another. This is why I like to promote conversation amongst the team and the audience too, to support the development of the work, but also for everyone to co-own the project. Therefore, the work is for me a kind of synthesis of the arts and the result of a collective artistic effort, which is bound to be a construction of multiple viewpoints.  

 3. Ferran Cruixent reports that his music will have a rather calm character. What does this mean for your choreography? 

Iván Pérez: When Ferran says calm, I imagine that he wants to suggest that the music is somewhat fluid and with plenty of space for the dancers to live in, like with the opening part “Emergency and Self Organization”. This is true, though I am confident to say that he also composed very powerful and intricate movements, where the music is not only a constant flow of waves of sounds, rather a carefully constructed matrix of sonic events, like in the section that he titles “Fluorescences”. In any case, Ferran is a master in creating a communion between the instruments. He knows very well how to engage them in conversation with each other creating a sense of community between the musicians. This feeling written in the score transports the dancers and the audience too, I believe. We, the listeners, cannot escape from the sensitive development of its mantra, which takes you to a physical and sometimes even spiritual experience, especially if you listen to the movement “Coupling”. It moves me to tears during rehearsals in the studio, even though we are only using a computerized version of the score. Ultimately, what I most love about Ferran’s music for “Oscillation” is that with it, he manages to touch the concept of collective inspired by developmental biology and nature, the human soul and our need for contact with a flawless and honest integrity. I feel grateful for the opportunity to work with this powerful and meaningful score written by a composer of such a calibre. Now, I can only wish to do it justice with my choreography.  

 4. We see very few dancers on stage. What pictures await us? 

Iván Pérez: We see six dancers on stage to be precise. In order to guarantee the safety of our performers, they need to keep the 1.5m distance, as the health associations stipulate in the regulations for theatres. Luckily, there are two couples in the company, which allow us to create two different casts, with one couple in each of them. The couple is performing, as in living on each other’s bodies in permanent physical contact, exploring intimacy and time in an ongoing slow-motion dance. As its opposite there is a quartet that must keep distance between the bodies at all times and that will exist in the other side of the stage. These four performers search for new forms of communication by relating through rhythm, time, energy and intuition, most of the times resulting in a sort of organized chaos formed of fast paced interactions. In a continuum of movement, the piece oscillates between two poles, love and life. Dance and science become parallel realms too, that invite us to reflect on our current existence. In visual terms, the video projections enhance and support this investigation thanks to the interdisciplinary artist Bogomir Doringer. Bogomir is a curator and researcher, busy with social phenomena and collective behavior, most recently studying the club culture and dance as a form of urgency. Filmed in bird eye view, Doringer is curious in borrowing the scientific approach to research and analyse dancers at work. Here, we see the dancers from a new perspective, zooming in and out, able to examine the anatomy of their communication. Carlijn Petermeijer signs the costumes, designed inspired by nature and the millennials. We see organic fabrics and colours, combined with a tailored and efficient design style. These bodies are clearly part of a generation that wants to feel free, comfortable and available.

Photograph: Dancers Yi-Wei Lo and Kuan-Ying Su © S. Reichhardt  

Theatre Heidelberg (Maguerre Saal)        
World Premiere Ferran Cruixent,
'Oscillation' for dance and chamber orchestra  
Choreography and direction: Iván Pérez
Musical director: Dietger Holm

Information on the theatre website: » more

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