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Soetkin Elbers performs and talks about baroque gestures

The first time I saw baroque
Gesture and baroque dance was in a production of
“Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme”. The stage was only lit by candles. In that gigantic concert hall with
the dim light of the candles, despite having a seat
with a bad view, I was incredibly fascinated by
what was happening on stage. I was totally enchanted by
that entire production. When I left the concert hall, I felt I
had witnessed something extraordinary. I instantly wanted to see more of that, but
at the time I dind’t know where to find it. At the Brussels Conservatory, I
participated in a baroque opera project, directed by Sigrid T’Hooft. That’s where I had my first
experiences with baroque Gesture. Baroque Gesture is a kind of acting language,
used by singers in the 17th and 18th century. In those days, there was no such thing as a stage director.
The singers were their own directors. When they performed on stage or in concerts
– in case they sang without scores – they would always use their body,
especially their hands, eyes and entire posture to visualize whatever they were singing. Nowadays we call this “Gesture”. The two of us haven’t worked
on any entire opera yet. We’ve done a chamber cantata
and now French cantatas and an Italian one. I’d also like to work on
church music with Gesture I know it was done at the time,
but I can’t yet imagine what it would look like. It’s a big challenge for
singers nowadays to take up. It’s just as important as performing
the music of that period. If you wish to perform the
music in its totality, not just the historical way of singing,
with period instruments, then Gesture is simply an
essential part of that. People often ask me whether singing
with Gesture is more difficult. Of course it takes some
degree of concentration, on top of the music, the timing and
all the other musical parameters, but in my experience the gestures
actually help me to understand the text better and on the other hand
to express the text better. So, in that regard, I find it easier.

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