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Forsythe to step down


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 27 August 2002 - 07:33 AM

This is from this morning's Dance Insider, a letter from William Forsythe about his decision to step down in Frankfurt.

http://www.danceinsider.com/

#2 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 27 August 2002 - 07:56 AM

I just received a statement as an email from their press office, so I reprint it here:

Frankfurt, 27 August, 2002


Dear Friends, Respected Colleagues, Persons and Governors of the City of Frankfurt,

In light of recent developments, I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude for the encouragement I have received in every imaginable kind of gesture from here at home and every part of the world.

For the last 18 years, the City of Frankfurt has provided unwavering and generous support for the development of Ballett Frankfurt. I have gladly served as a cultural ambassador, attempting to demonstrate world-wide what this city’s deep commitment to the performing arts could accomplish. This commitment of the City of Frankfurt has enabled the evolution of my thought-work to a degree which would have been have difficult or even impossible to realize in a majority of metropolitan cultures in the world.

Over the course of the last several years, I have experienced a shift in my perception of the field in which I am operating. This has engendered a very specific professional intention which lacks adequate identity with my current position as director of a large municipal institution. As an artist I feel it would be inconsistent to pursue this personal and particular telos in such a setting, over a longer period of time.

The practice of introducing methods which delineate perceptual rules and boundaries is central to the domain of artistic practice. For the present, I feel strongly that my own methodological evolution would be best served if conducted in a context less integrated into a field of political practice that is, understandably, challenged by the task of establishing primary descriptive models of cultural policy that can be accurately represented by numbers. It is extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, to objectively translate or reduce intrinsic, multiple values as are typically embedded in art, into interest-maximizing  numbers that explicate it’s relevance in political models of cultural well-being. Simply said, I wish to pursue a more independent organizational path. I must admit however, it is difficult to leave a body of work, my life’s work, behind.  

I especially wish to extend to the citizens of Frankfurt my deepest and most heartfelt gratitude for their enduring and intense devotion to the long-term constructive development of that extraordinary entity, the audience of the Ballett Frankfurt. The work is first and foremost conceived for you who have determined the direction of this institution’s artistic goals. I thank you for your exceptional rigor and sensibility.

With greatest respect,

William Forsythe  



#3 Alexandra

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Posted 27 August 2002 - 08:24 AM

Well, we certainly wouldn't want any artist to be forced to pursue an incorrect telos (do you think this was a translation from the German?)

There are several interesting aspects to this news (aside from the What Really Happened one, which I think we should avoid, since we don't know). What I think he's saying is that right now he wants to have his own company, not a city or state institution -- and I'd second that. Do others read it that way?

Also -- and we've discussed this before, regarding Forsythe's statement that after he dies, he wants his work to die with him -- what happens to his work? It's a problem that dates back to Diaghilev: when Fokine left, he thought he could take his work with him, but found he didn't own it.

The modern dance model is "I am the company." It's inconceivable that Paul Taylor would leave the Paul Taylor Dance Company to form, say, Paul's Dancers, and have to worry about what happens with his work. And maybe Forsythe wants to go in such a different direction that past work would be a hindrance to that.

Frankfurt Ballet has been more a European phenomenon than an American one. The company does not often perform here. About 15 years ago, when Forsythe was The Next Great Choreographer, lots of companies performed his works. After he had his own company and didn't need, nor have the time, to freelance, he hasn't been an active presence in American ballet, although he has many, many imitators.

What happens now?

#4 Nanatchka

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Posted 27 August 2002 - 08:34 AM

We will see. What I am wondering is if he has accepted a specific interesting offer from elsewhere. I think his letter states that he wishes to be free to make "unpopular" work. He's so intelligent. Even when I hate what he does, I never doubt that.

#5 Alexandra

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Posted 27 August 2002 - 08:44 AM

I liked the right to make unpopular work idea, too. I think the European companies that took on the one-choreographer model made a mistake. I usually like, and nearly always admire, Pina Bausch's work a lot, but if I lived in Wuppertal, I think I'd be screaming for something else within a year. Forsythe and Bausch are working like American modern dance choreographers -- I want to do what I want to do; I have a vision -- more than the European institutional model, Balanchine's "I'm a cook and I make something for everybody." I think you need both, but I humbly suggest our model is more workable. In New York, Forsythe would find an audience -- and probably a fairly large one; in the postmodern dance world, he'd be accessible. In Frankfurt, he'll always be fighting the people who really want to see Romeo and Juliet.

#6 Jane Simpson

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Posted 27 August 2002 - 08:54 AM

Alexandra, isn't it just big city v. smaller city rather than Europe v. America?

#7 Alexandra

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Posted 27 August 2002 - 09:08 AM

I didn't say that all European companies had this model, but "the European companies that took on the one-choreographer model". I think the major European companies (not all big cities, since Copenhagen was counted as one of these) were institutions rather than one-man shows. They may have had only one choreographer, with assistants, but they weren't auteur companies, the way American modern dance companies were. (I know there were German modern dance companies built along the same lines, but for a variety of reasons, they didn't develop.)

In London, weren't the first modern dance companies -- London Contemporary Dance Theatre, Ballet Rambert -- more collective than auteur? We've never had a successful LCDT; there were a few attempts at repertory modern dance companies but they didn't last.

The idea of models has interested me for awhile, because when I started looking at dance companies' histories, it seemed there were some that were institutions and others that were not, and that there's an institutional model, where a repertory and aesthetic is consistent and develops slowly over time, and an ex-institutional one, where the company reflects the tastes and expertise of the Artistic Director at that specific period in time. (In ballet, the great example of the latter was Robert Joffrey, I think, and it's become the model that more and more American companies are adopting -- and it's spreading.)

#8 Manhattnik

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Posted 27 August 2002 - 09:56 AM

One wonders a bit about the priorities of a person who tosses around hundred-dollar words with such reckless (if rather incomprehensible) abandon, yet can't manage to make proper use of the lowly, but ever-so-important "its/it's." Reading that letter, I can certainly see why Forstythe has chosen a career based on non-verbal communication!

#9 dirac

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Posted 27 August 2002 - 10:29 AM

Not to mention the awkwardly split infinitives.



I feel strongly that my own methodological evolution would be best served if conducted in a context less integrated into a field of political practice that is, understandably, challenged by the task of establishing primary descriptive models of cultural policy that can be accurately represented by numbers. It is extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, to objectively translate or reduce intrinsic, multiple values as are typically embedded in art, into interest-maximizing numbers that explicate it’s relevance in political models of cultural well-being.




If I understand him right, he's saying, "I'm leaving because I don't want to have to make things that people want to see." I'm not saying this isn't a perfectly defensible, not to say wise, reason for taking his leave; but did he require quite so many polysyllables to say it? :)

#10 BW

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Posted 27 August 2002 - 12:46 PM

Thanks Manhattnik and dirac - I feel vindicated in re my own reactions. ;)

#11 LMCtech

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Posted 27 August 2002 - 01:51 PM

As a German translator I can say that all those would be typical grammatical errors (with telos) made by a translator whose native language is not English. But doesn't Forsythe speak English? Did he have to write a press statement in German (perfectly possible) and then the press department had them translated into various languages and sent them off?

#12 Estelle

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Posted 27 August 2002 - 01:57 PM

Actually, when reading Forsythe's message, I had the feeling it was something produced by Babelfish- and thanks for the comments, because I really didn't understand what he meant!

Alexandra, I'm not so much knowledgeable about German geography, but perhaps if you lived there you could go rather easily to other German cities with a larger repertory, Germany still has a rather large number of companies with a varied repertory... But I agree that it can be a problem. Now in most French cities the only "home" companies are state-funded "centres chorégraphiques nationaux" directed by modern choreographers, and so when you don't like the works of Gallotta (in Grenoble), Monnier (in Montpellier), Saporta (in Caen), etc. you can only rely on touring companies, which often aren't very numerous.

#13 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 27 August 2002 - 04:16 PM

Forsythe is American, and English is his native tongue - also I'm pretty sure the language of business of the company is English. He has always had a fascination with language that I think may explain the extravagance (and pretention) of the words used. A major work brought to American in '99 was Eidos:telos - which may explain that obscure choice. I think his love affair with words and sounds means that unfortunately sometimes the more concrete goal of communication is overlooked.

#14 dirac

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Posted 27 August 2002 - 04:44 PM

Tactfully put. :)

#15 Mel Johnson

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Posted 27 August 2002 - 06:38 PM

If you ask me, it sounded like Reginald Bunthorne from Patience after a long spell of too much cocaine.


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