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Did William Forsythe Invent The Modern Ballerina?Interview with William Forsythe


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#16 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 12:23 PM

Come to think of it, I've got to ask - why are we still talking about Forsythe like it's 1989 and he's the bold future of ballet when he hasn't made a ballet in years?

Can someone name a ballet work Forsythe's done since the Forsythe rep program for Paris in '99? (Woundwork and pas/parts)

It's not as if works such as Artifact and Czar weren't great and that's I think why we do hold on to them, but that's not what he's doing - and we have to ignore his current output to discuss him in a balletic light.

#17 Amy Reusch

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 07:44 PM

I think it's because of youtube...

#18 SandyMcKean

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 08:56 PM

And I think it's because he's an amazing talent, and "what have you done for me lately" is a lack of historical perspective.

If Forsythe isn't worthy, let's hear about the real frontier of balletic choreography.

#19 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 08:59 PM

If we're using worthy as a qualification, let's discuss Paul Taylor as the future of ballet. Or how about Martha Graham?

#20 SandyMcKean

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 10:20 PM

Ah, one dead and the other 79. Legacy perhaps, but not active. OTOH, I just saw the Paul Taylor Dance Company last week on the University of Washington campus. One of the pieces they did was "Beloved Renegade": a magnificent work done to the arresting Poulenc "Gloria". He choreographed it recently, so I can't eliminate him too quickly. The entire program of: "Public Domain", "Beloved Renegade", and "Esplanade" was superb. I was persuaded. Paul Taylor must be another major trunk of the ballet evolutionary tree!

Genius is so enrolling.....:o.

#21 Mel Johnson

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Posted 17 October 2009 - 03:59 AM

Allow me to return to the original question, and reply that IMO, Nijinska invented the modern ballerina. And she did it during the 1920s.

#22 bart

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Posted 17 October 2009 - 05:19 AM

Allow me to return to the original question, and reply that IMO, Nijinska invented the modern ballerina. And she did it during the 1920s.

I'm glad we're returning to Lucy's original question. Thanks, Mel. Would love to hear more details about your nomination of Nijinska..

#23 Alexandra

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Posted 17 October 2009 - 07:45 AM

I'm not sure it was Nijinska. As I posted at the beginning of the thread, Doubrovska is often described as either the first modern ballerina, or the first neoclassical ballerina (at any rate, the first unitard ballerina) and Nijinska used her, but so did Massine and Balanchine. I do think that Nijinska was an extremely important choreographer, who made ballets (real ballets) on then-contemporary themes. I wish we had more of her works.

(There's a very nice DVD about Doubrovska by Virginia Brooks, available from her web site.  http://www.brooksdan.../Doubrovska.asp )

#24 Helene

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Posted 17 October 2009 - 07:56 AM

Has anyone extended the modern ballerina past "Agon"?

#25 Alexandra

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Posted 17 October 2009 - 08:22 AM

Interesting point, Helene, and again goes to definitions -- everything Balanchine made for Farrell was after "Agon." Did "Diamonds" or "Vienna Waltzes" or "Mozartiana" extend the "modern ballerina"? Or do we define "modern ballerina" very narrowly to mean a female wearing minimal clothing and stretching and twisting the limbs? (There are some choreographers who do se "Agon" as the beginning of contemporary ballet and toss out everything else. I've heard NYCB fans say that everything else Balanchine did was merely to please the fans. I do not agree with that; just sayin'....)

#26 bart

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Posted 17 October 2009 - 08:27 AM

To assist readers in recalling Lucy's original topic, here is the relevant Q&A from Sulcas's interview. I've added the bold type.:

RS: In a recent interview that I did with [New York City Ballet principal dancer] Wendy Whelan, she commented that you had invented the modern ballerina. Do you think that’s true?

WF: I think Balanchine did that, but it’s true that in my work, both the man and the woman have equal say in the dynamics or contributions to a pas de deux or any action that they shared. In In the Middle, for example, they are testing the limits of their cooperation as much as anything. It’s not just about support; it’s about enabling something that couldn’t happen alone. Those off-balance moves of the pas de deux couldn’t be sustained without the entirety of their physique – it’s a complex physical construction.

Exactly how "modern" -- in the sense of innovative -- IS this?

#27 Alexandra

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Posted 17 October 2009 - 08:39 AM

bart, I thought Mel had brought us back to the original question, which is, "Did William Forsythe Invent the Modern Ballerina?" and offered another candidate :o

#28 bart

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Posted 17 October 2009 - 09:58 AM

You're right about Mel bringing us back. But, to be honest, I discovered that I had forgotten the original text :o , so I thought it might help to have it repeated. It's an intriguing question, because it makes us think about what "modern" means in this context, both as to choreography and as to individual dancers.

#29 Helene

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Posted 17 October 2009 - 10:30 AM

Or do we define "modern ballerina" very narrowly to mean a female wearing minimal clothing and stretching and twisting the limbs? (There are some choreographers who do se "Agon" as the beginning of contemporary ballet and toss out everything else.

While I don't believe that everything that Balanchine choreographed after "Agon" was a crowd-pleaser -- he did choreograph "Episodes" later, after all :o -- to me "Agon" is the clean geometry of Diana Adams' performance in the kinescope, and I don't think the bendy-twisty interpretations that came afterwards extended the modern ballerina any more than I think today's 180 degree extensions have extended the classical ballerina.

#30 Mel Johnson

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Posted 18 October 2009 - 04:46 PM

My belief still rests firmly with Nijinska. From her acrobatic interpolations into Sleeping Beauty pas de deux to her material for the Bride in "Les Noces" to the material for the Hostess and the "Garçonne" in "Les Biches" and on into more minor ballets like "Constantia", she brought the off-kilter, but still classically-based to female leads in ballet.


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