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When the legendary George Balanchine commented to Hans van Manen, ballet dancer and choreographer extraordinaire, that Beethoven was one of those composers whose music was impossible to choreograph, he eagerly took on the challenge. In this 1984 tour de force, Van Manen skillfully adapts his celebrated style to suit two of Beethoven’s late works for string quartet, the eternally challenging Grosse Fuge (Great Fugue), Op. 133, and the Cavatina from the B-Major String Quartet, Op. 130.
The stark and simple set, black and white costumes, and clean choreographic lines punctuate the abstraction of Van Manen’s vision, intended to convey the tension inherent in every interpersonal relation. His artistic process strips away artifice and focuses on that tension: “As soon as I place two people in an empty room,” van Manen says, “I express a mood or relationship.”