Special Alert

World Premiere: New Work for Goldberg Variations


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When pianist Simone Dinnerstein and choreographer Pam Tanowitz began discussing an evening-length dance collaboration in 2015, they faced an obvious question: what would they perform? Bach was a clear choice for Dinnerstein, who became a sudden classical star in 2007 with her self-financed interpretation of “Goldberg” Variations. The New Yorker hailed Dinnerstein’s “unapologetically romantic way with Bach,” while Slate praised “the dreamlike fugue state that Dinnerstein induces,” calling her recording of the work “an extended fairy tale, a far-flung journey recounted by firelight, a lullaby.” Tanowitz’s extensive résumé, however, hinged largely on contemporary scores, so she hesitated to pursue Bach, especially since Jerome Robbins’ own 1971 setting remained a firm touchstone. Dinnerstein, who performed the Robbins setting with the Paris Opera Ballet in 2016, persisted. After all, as a choreographer, Tanowitz had long challenged and reworked classic dance forms and ballet motifs, playfully manipulating the past with wit and a touch of whimsy. Why not do the same with the “Goldberg”? Duke Performances — a longtime supporter of Dinnerstein and the lead commissioner for this project — presents the two-night world premiere of New Work for Goldberg Variations, an audacious setting for piano and seven dancers. Following a weeklong production residency at Duke, New Work for Goldberg Variations features Dinnerstein performing the Bach at center stage, with the ensemble dancing around the piano. It is a bold new piece. “I desire to create something that will be inherently dangerous for both of us as artists,” says Tanowitz of the work, “in which everything we reveal to each other is woven into the fabric of her playing and my choreography.”

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