Having spent a lot of time accompanying dancers, and making the dances from the Bach cello suites physical and visual, I intended the recording to show the result of the project in ‘pure sound’. Participating in the activity of dancing stimulates and invigorates the act of playing the instrument through the physical empathy that inevitably occurs in the activity of the dancers. Recording, in contrast, is a more reflective activity. One has to step back and take the place of the listener, but one also performs the music without the presence of an audience.
Before recording I had to make one important choice that would strongly influence the result: should I bring the dance into the recording studio by having a dancer with me, thus ensuring the character of the dance was retained, or should I leave the dance behind and let my playing express itself naturally? Choosing the former would favour a dynamic situation that in many ways would continue the work on the dance performance, but with the danger of falling into the trap of intentionally making the interpretations more dance-like. Choosing the latter would favour a more reflective situation, where the result of three years of immersion into the world of Baroque dance would come through by itself. Pondering this, I realised that I had been focusing so intently on the dance aspects of Bach’s music that I had somehow put the music aside during all this time. I was convinced this was the logical consequence of doing the work that I had set out to do, but at the same time I felt it was time to let my identity as a twentieth- (and twenty-first-) century cellist come back into the equation. In the end, I chose to let my new experiences with dance interact with thirty-five years of experience playing Bach in different frameworks within the modern performance traditions.
Two months before the recording I stopped my dancing classes, primarily to spend more time with my instrument but also to distance myself from the actual practice of dancing. Even so, whenever I needed to polish some rhythmic aspect of a movement or the direction of a phrase, I found that I got up and took a couple of dance steps to feel my way through the phrase. During the recording, when listening back to the takes, I used short step sequences as references to check whether I had found the right physical feeling in the phrases. It so happened that the recording venue offered ample space for doing this,1 much to the amusement of my sound engineer and producer. In this way, my newly gained ‘dance baggage’ always served as a backdrop to the musical and instrumental work. In the end it proved impossible to leave the dance completely behind.