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Swaying between Sadness and Happiness

Inspiring dance and a phenomenal orchestra--once again there was jubilation for the youth project "Let's Dance!"

Karsten Blüthgen

[Article in German]

Suffering, floundering, catching on, as a group. Dancing is like life. If the choreography has innumerable participants, that takes the pressure off the individuals. Inspires, enthralls them, perhaps after they have struggled. As on Friday, when the slogan once again was: "Let's Dance!". The first Dresden version of this school project at the Music Festival in 2010 was very well received; now there's a sequel. The audience swarmed to the Messe again. Would the success be repeated? Disappointed faces were nowhere to be seen, instead dancing for joy.

This time the spotlight was on a topic which millions faced: displacement by fascism and war. Béla Bartók, who died only months after the end of World War II, supplied the music for this. His homeland of Hungary had become a stranger to him. After the war broke out, he emigrated to New York, established himself with difficulty, and found help from friends and musicians who commissioned works, including the "Concerto for Orchestra", first performed in 1944.

A good hundred students between twelve and twenty from four Dresden schools worked their way into the world of Bartók's soul. Since Easter, under the tutelage of Royston Maldoom, they rehearsed choreography which brings Bartók's destiny home and at the same time makes it comprehensible as a collective destiny. Maldoom, who had done this project before in Berlin, succeeded in weaving a net of motivating forces; he enthralled adolescent students and helped them rise above themselves.
The "Concerto for Orchestra" thus stirred up profound themes. The musically constructed images of pain and bitterness, pride and irony, searching and fulfillment were brought to life through touching characters and movements. Suitcases, steamship funnels, and projected images of New York--no additional ingredients were necessary. Understated costumes evoked the memory and directed the attention to the movements and faces.
This effect would have come to nothing if the other young people had not also gotten down to work so marvelously: the Curtis Symphony Orchestra from Philadelphia's elite school under the direction of Robert Spano. The Bartók part was preceded by David Ludwig's “Fanfare for Sam” and Leonard Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from "West Side Story". The sensitive, precise orchestral tone that could be heard in this thematically coherent program was simply phenomenal.
While the Curtis students already had to leave halfway through the night to continue their tour, the Dresden students could sleep in. If any of them dreamed of dancing, they could say in the morning: I really did it.
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