Beyond Bach, with choreography by Stephen Baynes, set design by Andrew Carter, costume design by Anna French and lighting by Kenneth Rayner, was given its world premiere at the State Theatre, Victorian Arts Centre, Melbourne on 15 September 1995. A work commissioned by the Australian Ballet, it was danced to a selection of music by J. S. Bach including Sheep may safely graze, Adagio from Sonata for viola da gamba and harpsichord BWV 1028 and Suite no. 3 in D major BWV 1068.
In program notes Baynes wrote:
The particular music I've chosen is certainly not amongst Bach's most profound, but indeed these works are probably among his most accessible and eminently danceable. In the music of Bach classicism reached its apogee with regard to structure and form. His genius lies in the fact that within that discipline he was able to express such profound emotion. Far from inhibiting his voice, it liberated it. People study Bach because of the academic side, and yet beyond all that academia was some deeply felt lyricism and spirituality. It is this parallel with classical dance, having to express oneself through a very formal discipline, that I want to explore.
The cast for the opening night of Beyond Bach was led by Vicki Attard, Li Cunxin, Justine Summers and Steven Heathcote. The work has been revived by the Australian Ballet and was staged by the Royal Ballet in 2002 when the company was under the direction of Ross Stretton.
Stephen Baynes discusses the inspiration behind Beyond bach in Michelle Potter, A Passion for Dance (Canberra: National Library of Australia, 1997). The lighting of the work is analysed in detail by Kennth Rayner in 'Lighting Beyond Bach', Brolga 7 (December 1997), pp. 23-34.
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In this interview choreographer Stephen Baynes discusses his attitude to working with the vocabulary of classical ballet. He speaks in particular about his 1995 work for the Australian Ballet, Beyond Bach. He also talks about his family background and his dance training, including his experiences with his teacher Joanna Priest. He goes on to discuss his professional career as a dancer with the Australian Ballet and with Stuttgart Ballet. He speaks about the development of his choreographic aspirations with both those companies and gives his thoughts on the artistic directors he has worked with including John Cranko, Peggy van Praagh and Maina Gielgud. Edited extracts from this interview have been published as 'Contemporary Classicist' in Michelle Potter, A Passion for Dance, (Canberra: National Library of Australia, 1997), pp. 1-13.