Django Bates, Babel: A Ballet of Signs premiere - Out of the Box festival, Werksviertel district, Munich

Ralf Dombrowski reviews the world premiere of Babel - A Ballet of Signs performed in the unusual setting of the basement of a Munich car park The schedule was sporty, Django Bates said, adding: "Monday we arrived in Munich, Tuesday we started …

Published: 28 May 2022. Updated: 38 days.

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Ralf Dombrowski reviews the world premiere of Babel - A Ballet of Signs performed in the unusual setting of the basement of a Munich car park

The schedule was sporty, Django Bates said, adding: "Monday we arrived in Munich, Tuesday we started rehearsals, first in groups, then together in the underground car park. Friday was the premiere. It only could work so well because everyone in the team is excellent. Especially since Babel – A Ballet of Signs is not just a pure musical production, but a combination of genres embracing different forms of making music and content. The project is a danced parable of intelligibility and brings together different levels of perception, developed as a concept especially for the Out Of The Box Festival.''

The location was the unused basement of a new parking garage in Munich's Werksviertel, a development project with modern architecture for business, start-ups, urban living and amazing cultural value-added anchors. Bates' composition was part of the opening of the third edition of the festival, and he had splendid partners at his side. The Swiss Bern Art Ensemble, the Swedish O/Modernt Chamber Orchestra and the Norwegian Trondheim Voices performed musically across the space. Three dancers from Moving Borders translated Ceren Oran's choreography into decentralised movement, Bates himself conducted the music that he had written. Texts by Pablo Neruda, Alessandro Baricco and T. S. Eliot were translated into sign language and presented as narrative brackets on screens.

It was about the dissolution of meanings, about danced symbolism with simultaneous re- auratisation of the experience through the impossibility, already inherent in the idea, of perceiving the events in a completely linear way. The music linked this diversity of demands with laconic perfection to form a polystylistic fabric. Neutonous drum pathos met noise and vocal passages of the choir, modern swinging cheerfulness met a free flow of sound elements, minimalist condensation met poetic force in the setting of the literary models. The three dancers moved all over the room, interacting with the musicians, the audience and the pantomime words. And Django Bates conducted with great concentration, smiling at the end. For what began sportingly had turned out very well.

Django Bates photo: Ralf Dombrowski

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Horrendous that BBC Four is to go online only - jazz no matter how tiny its presence on the channel will suffer more than most

We are shocked by the daft decision to move BBC Four online-only. The only linear UK TV channel that very occasionally but always parsimoniously given what it shells out for Scandi-noir covers jazz in anything approaching credibility will see its …

Published: 28 May 2022. Updated: 37 days.

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We are shocked by the daft decision to move BBC Four online-only. The only linear UK TV channel that very occasionally but always parsimoniously given what it shells out for Scandi-noir covers jazz in anything approaching credibility will see its audience shrink in the much more competitive online world dominated for music anyway by non-TV (except by another name) platforms like YouTube. What a ludicrous decision that will hurt jazz. Because beyond BBC Four all the rest of the many channels out there on UK TV don't even do the tiny smattering that BBC Four grudgingly chisels out however gone in the blink of an eye and in the air it usually proves apart from in November when they go full tonto for a smattering of more sustained coverage during the London Jazz Festival. What bad timing given that arch-rival Sky Arts which is now available for nowt on Freeview is more visible than ever. And yet Sky Arts rarely covers jazz properly either! Instead it seems curiously obsessed and laughably serves up lots of the insanely popular Dutch waltz king André Rieu along with clog loads of prog rock as a bizarre Waldorf salad accompaniment. If not quite a case of the Fawlty logic of ''that's eggs, bacon, sausage, and tomato with a Waldorf salad, all washed down with lashings of hot screwdriver'' you surely must get our resolutely unfaulty drift.

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