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Monteverdi Ballets

Hip hop goes Baroque at 'Monteverdi Ballets'

From street dance to Monteverdi via Liberty X, Tony Adigun explains his latest project

By Lyndsey Winship
We live in an age of improbable collaborations: egg and bacon ice cream, Iggy Pop and car insurance adverts, Tories and Lib Dems. So hip hop and baroque opera? Why not.

As part of this month’s Spitalfields Festival, contemporary urban choreographer Tony Adigun is bringing a bit of London street style to the world of the madrigal, as his company, Avant Garde Dance, performs to the music of Monteverdi alongside singers and musicians from the Early Opera Company.

How did this happen? Turns out the starting point wasn’t the Italian master composer who pioneered the Baroque sounds of the 17th century, but a quintet of early noughties reality show runners-up, Liberty X.

‘I went on tour [as a dancer] with Liberty X with a live band and it was the most amazing experience,’ says Adigun. ‘Every night was different, a different energy. That made me really fall in love again with both elements [dance and live music]. I wanted to bring that to our world.’ Since then Adigun has been determined to make his own work with live music, but a 389-year-old Monteverdi score wasn’t what he originally had in mind. It has proved a challenge. Firstly dealing with the music itself, which is driven by its text (the show’s centrepiece is a story of gender confusion and fighting to the death!), and secondly dealing with the classical music world: ‘The rules and regulations, things you can change, things you can’t change. How far you can go,’ Adigun explains.

If it were completely up to him, Adigun would be free to manipulate the score as he would a piece of choreographic material. ‘I’d say: “We’re going to sing it like this, we’re going to repeat this section, then we’re going to sing it in reverse.” I’d mash it up,’ he says. ‘It should be billed as two worlds colliding, and what happens that night is the result of it. Bang! And then whatever flies up in the air…’

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