A few updates make classical melodies the ideal backup for ‘Flying Bach’ b-boy moves
By ADRIENNE SAMUELS GIBBS Staff Reporter June 16, 2014 3:12PM
The Flying Steps pose for a portrait during the Red Bull Flying Bach World Tour, Chicago on March 14, 2014 // Ryan Taylor/Red Bull Content Pool
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday, June 27-28; 2 p.m. Sunday and June 29
Where: Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker
Updated: July 18, 2014 6:13AM
It’s as if Boogaloo Shrimp jumped out of ’80s b-boy classic “Breakin’ ” and brought his European and Middle Eastern friends out to play. That’s kind of what’s going to happen this week when world renowned break-dance crew the Flying Steps juxtaposes windmills and head spins against the music of Johann Sebastian Bach at the Civic Opera House.
This is the first-ever Chicago performance of the German-based group (which includes a Swedish ballerina) known for showcasing new concepts in modern dance. Their performances at the opera house will be to Bach’s keyboard classic “The Well-Tempered Clavier.” Vartan Bassil choreographs while artistic director and pianist Christoph Hagel plays the music.
“We wanted to do something new and then we got the idea to do something with classical music, but we really didn’t have any idea of how we could start,” says Michael Rosemann, also known as Mikel, from Berlin. He’s both a dancer and a spokesman for the multinational troupe. “It [takes] a lot of time to understand the classical music.”
But they figured it out. They added a hint of electronic dance music as an undertone to the main Bach piece and backflipped, spun and pirouetted to the beat. The 70-minute show is hyper and acrobatic and, as some kids might say, ’hood without the rachetness. Called “Red Bull Flying Bach,” the show fits in well with the energy drink’s strategy of attaching itself in name to “cool” youth-oriented events. It seems that Red Bull is ahead of the trendcasting by linking up with snow sports, water sports, motor sports, arts and various festivals before those forms become mainstream. For example, Red Bull was at Art Basel in Miami before Art Basel became something that non-art lovers knew about.
“We’ve been involved in creating, participating and even redefining various scenes — from mountain biking to break dancing, snowboarding and art — and that is reflected in our storytelling, both through our own media channels and third party outlets,” says Red Bull spokeswoman Jennifer Belongia-Barak. “We strive to give opportunities to all different levels of artists.”
For Chicago that means being the first to introduce this new take on an old song and dance. Though break dancing is an American art form, the Flying Steps have perfected it and are lauded as the best crew in Germany, if not the world. Founded in 1993, they have won four break-dance world championships and have created the Flying Steps Dance Academy. While in Chicago for a press tour, they also took time out to teach classes at various local dance studios. That’s sometimes how they find potential members.
“Last year we brought in three new members and we had three old members put together a new routine; that show was called Redbull Flying Illusion,” says Rosemann, adding that it’s important to update the music with electronic beats while also using original instrumentation including the harpsichord. “It’s important now since we’ve been on tour for four years. What’s next? They’ll ask, will you dance to Mozart? So now we are thinking we might need to do a completely new show.”
Like other professional dancers, they spend most of their days practicing, except that b-boy practices aren’t rote. It seems that hardly anything happens twice, and a lot of it comes out on the fly.
“In the beginning it was kind of crazy in rehearsals,” says Holmstrom, who hails from Stockholm, and shares an obvious brotherly comraderie with the guys since joining them last June. Her dance style is, well, classic. Theirs is not. Says Holmstrom: “We found a way. This project is inspiring to me because everything they do, they do it with passion. They don’t just practice. So everything then influences my contemporary dance.”
They are a tight-knit family and travel together most of the year.
“For us it’s very important not that you are the most popular or best dancer in the world but that first of all you are a good person,” says Rosemann. “We choose people from the [dance] scene and when we feel the harmony is together we invite them to Berlin to come.”
That’s how Lil Ceng, otherwise known as Gengis Ademoski, came to the Steps. Hailing from Saarbrucken, Germany, he first saw the crew on TV when he was 8 or 9. He promptly fell in love.
“I said, ‘Oh, I want to do the same,’ but there was no one to teach me,” he says. “So time passes and then my cousins say, ‘I know some break dancers and let’s go there.’ And I go.”
Ceng connected with another crew founder, Benny Kimoto, who is now his roommate. “It’s crazy now that I’m in the crew and he’s one of my best friends. Anything can happen when you just trust in you.”