Flying Steps’ Vartan explains how breakdancing to Bach instead of hip-hop for Red Bull Flying Bach is as much about art as it is about b-boy culture.
We know what’s cool about breakdancing – what’s cool about Bach?
There’s so much feeling in the music, it’s very special. But the two things aren’t so different anyway. Ballet dancers pirouette on their feet, breakdancers do that on their heads! We wanted to show old people from the classical music scene how breakdance works, how it can be high art too.
'We had to learn how Bach built the music note by note'
What part did classical music/breakdancing play in your life before working on Red Bull Flying Bach?
Before, I knew it just from listening to the radio in the car – I normally listen to hip-hop and breakbeat. Before you can choreograph something, you must understand the music, so everybody took the Bach recording home and listened to it maybe 100 times.
The show involves two worlds and two creative languages colliding. What challenge did this pose for you personally?
It was not so easy in the beginning. We had to learn how Bach built the music note by note. Normally when we choreograph to breakbeat, we need just 20 or 30 minutes to make it, but some pieces of the Bach music took two or three days. Everything we learnt over the last 20 years, we put into this project.
What’s the best comment you’ve overheard about Red Bull Flying Bach?
A really old woman came up to us and said she’d never seen anything like this, and she feels now that breakdancing is more fit to do to classical music than to hip-hop music, because it is so full of harmony!
Which stop on the tour are you most looking forward to?
We are halfway through the European tour, so now we are waiting for all of the invites worldwide, and we would love the chance to do the show in Las Vegas.
'Breakdance is more than street, it is art'
Bach wrote part of The Well-Tempered Clavier from prison (after getting on the wrong side of the Duke of Weimar). Where and when are you at your most creative?
All the years I’ve been in this business. You listen to the music and you get a direct picture in your mind. For me this happens everywhere – at home, on the street. When I listen to the music, when I close my eyes, then I see everything. And when Christoph gave me the CD of The Well Tempered Clavier, he said, “OK, what do you see?”
Bach once threw his wig at an organist’s head for being mediocre. What makes you angry as an artist?
Many people say, “Oh, why do this with classical music? It’s not real, it’s not underground”. But breakdance is more than street, it is art. People need to open their minds. Why do this with classical? Why not?
Describe your dream block party…
I have so many great DJ friends, and they would be playing old school hip-hop and breakbeat. For me the best music was in the ’80s – James Brown and Michael Jackson. I first started to dance to Michael Jackson…