After spending the day yesterday writing and thinking about the move towards lifestyle and sensationalised reporting in music journalism, I woke-up to find a timely video made for a Belgian classical music festival, B-Classic.

The controversial video features dancers “twerking” to the fourth movement of Dvořák’s – Symphony No. 9 (Allegro con fuoco). For those of you unfamiliar, “twerking” is a sexually provocative dance style made popular in hip hop music, and features the shaking of the hips in an up-and-down bouncing motion that causes the dancer’s buttocks to shake, “wobble” and “jiggle”.

The video was made by DDB Brussels, at the behest of the Belgian music festival B-Classic; a festival devoted entirely to classical music. In a stunt to promote the festival and broaden their audience, they commissioned the Belgian music video director Raf Reyntjens, who is best known for his work with electronics artist Stromae. Reyntjens, hired a crew of female Korean dancers, (Wayeva), and choreographed a provocative dance routine against Dvořák’s popular New World Symphony. The video, which comes across like a surreal parody, has received nearly 1 million views in just over six days.

Watching this makes me wonder what this festival was thinking? I’d hazard a guess:  classical music can be just as cool and hip as pop music. But my impression is that it comes across as hollow and trashy, which is a shame, because it need not be that way for any music genre.

According to a statement on the festival’s website, “B-Classic wants to give classical music the same recognition as pop and rock music. That’s why we are proud to announce The Classical Comeback: a new music video format that combines the timeless emotion of classical music with the visual talent of a contemporary director.” … “Great composers like Dvorak did write their music for everyone. Their goal was to give people a break, let them escape from reality and to move them.”

The festival has made a short documentary in which Frank Peters, a Dutch classical pianist and spokesperson for B-Classic, says he’s “not convinced that youth are uninterested in classical music. I think that it’s simply more difficult for them to discover.”

The video concludes with the statement: “You just listened to three minutes of classical music.” I’m not so sure about that.


Michael Vincent

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7 Responses to Classical music festival goes too far with tasteless Twerking video

  1. Amy Buchwald says:

    That definitely gets an “oh for heaven’s sake” from me. This takes stooping too low very literally! lol Classical Music does need for the people presenting it to remove the stick from their (ahem) but it doesn’t need them to shake a semi-clothed one.

  2. Jacqueline V says:

    This seriously needs one of those parody videos that replaces the women with men to show how ridiculous it is. Please say there already is one! These videos make me wonder what century it is and if we really came so far just to be reduced to endless depictions of women as mere objects.

  3. You said it, Mike: hollow and trashy. And sad.

  4. I’m not willing to buy into the pearl clutching that this article is advocating. Perhaps the video is not to your liking, but the “better mousetrap” approach of merely pointing out that classical music is great and has merit has failed. The passionate approach of Maestro Zander (with whom I have worked) is immensely effective on the people he reaches directly, which is continuously dropping to a smaller percentage of the general population.

    It’s worth admitting to yourselves that “kids these days” are watching videos where this sort of behavior is taking place and even glorified. People decried Wagner for writing music that was too forward thinking and modern for their tastes, and they criticized Brahms for writing music that was backwards and outdated. You can’t win when everyone has a platform for criticism, but you can try new things and hope they have an impact.

    Realize that your article, as one of hundreds or thousands, is adding fuel to a fire. Some fires burn away the old and make way for the new. Perhaps you felt offended, but perhaps your 12 year old grandson has a new name to Google: Dvorak! It could be worse.

  5. admin Michael Vincent says:

    12 year-old grandson? Hold on there, I’m only in my 30’s, Brent. I appreciate your well-worded comments. I have two points to clarify: firstly, I have no problems with innovative youth-oriented classical music programming, nor any qualms with mixing high and lowbrow culture. As a composer, I incorporate popular music in my work all the time.

    My issue with the video is that it’s void of anything beyond empty spectacle and male gaze. It actually could have been a really fascinating look into the juxtaposition of contemporary K-pop dance and classical music, but it all just falls apart like some strange classical music version of Miley Cyrus’ twerk fiasco at the VMAs last year. There are surely better ways to promote a classical music festival to Gen Z.

  6. missmussel says:

    My problem wasn’t that it was classical music and (modern) dancing together – after all, at least half of the canon is based on dance forms anyway. It’s that they chose the wrong music.

    If you’re going to make a sexy dance video, you should maybe start with sexy dance music

    Adding some Couperin makes the choreography seem rather a lot like step dancing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFEK9QIVJ5E

    and here’s where things just got a little bit silly – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiRWzWhoawc