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Forsythe - Has he choreographed for a full corps?


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My recent viewing in London of William Forsythe's four works performed by the Kirov Ballet prompts this question:

Has William Forsythe EVER choreographed a full-scale, full-evening (3-act) work encompassing a large corps de ballet + soloists + principals, as Neumeier, Wheeldon, Ratmansky, Martins & Eifman have done?

As much as I adore (truly!) the works performed by the Kirov, I cannot consider him "Balanchine's Successor" (as Kirov managers tout) until I see a full-evening ballet, involving a complete corps de ballet. Heck - I'll even settle for a one-act work involving 16-20 corps + soloists & demi-soloists, a-la Ballet Imperial or Symphony in C!

Even with the four Kirov-performed works, it appears that Forsythe specializes in solos & pas de deux. The 'largest' work among the four seen this past weekend, In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, uses nine dancers but 90% of the ballet involves a series of solos and pas de deux, with the rest of the dancers posing or wiggling in the background. Petipa was a total choreographer, as was Balanchine. Forsythe may echo Balanchine's solo & pdd work -- esp. Four Temperaments's Themes, in Approximate Sonata -- but he isn't the successor to Petipa/Balanchine in the composition of full-scale works, sorry to say.

So -- Where the Beef, Mr. Forsythe???? :) If there's no 'beef' how can you be called today's greatest classical ballet choreographer?

Natalia (sincere admirer of the Kirov's Forsythe program, playing Devil's Advocate)

Edited by Natalia
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Natalia -

He has choreographed large scale works, among them Artifact II and Pas./Parts. He's done several full evening works including Eidos:Telos and (I think) Impressing the Czar. His use of the corps de ballet tends to be more as a mass than as a frame - the best thing I've ever seen him do for a corps is the second section of Eidos:Telos, which was a take on the Orpheus myth. Beyond that, most of his essays using something approaching classical ballet have concentrated on smaller numbers of dancers even if the total cast was large. He doesn't usually move beyond the quartet.

I don't think you're going to get what you want from Forsythe. He isn't interested in producing it.

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Artifact is a full length work from 1984.

Artifact II, which was performed as a stand-alone by PNB, has a substantial corps which plays a "collective" against the soloists that break through.

Not that this is comparable to Balanchine, but Forsythe has choreographed at a least one full-length work with a corps.

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Good to know, Leigh & Helene! I'd be interested in seeing these full-corps works. I can't imagine that a work titled Impressing the Czar isn't on the short-term wish-list of Mr. Vaziev/Kirov-Mariinsky!

Leigh, I'm not necessarily looking for the full-scale work. The four small-scaled works on view in London fascinate me; I'd watch them many times over, they are so rich in detail & nuances....and seeing them performed by the 'Stradivarius Bodies' of the Kirov dancers is the icing on the cake! Rather, I've often wondered how a choreographer who has created his ballets mainly for singles/duos/trios could be termed the "successor to Petipa & Balanchine."

p.s. At one performance, I sat beside a nice lady from Frankfurt, who has seen all of these ballets performed by the old Forsythe troupe but never before by the Kirov. She was bowled over by the 'beautiful new look' of these four ballets as performed by the 'Kirov bodies'...."It's like seeing the ballets for the first time," she told me.

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Natalia -

I wrote an endless article on this for Ballet review in '00 (ENDLESS!) so boiling 7000 words of blather into the executive summary:

The pure dance works you enjoy are only a fragment of Forsythe's output and he's done less rather than more of them as time passes. Forsythe's "For Export" works for ballet companies give only a keyhole view of Forsythe as a choreographer. His work for his own company shows a choreographer much more interested in dance as a tool of theater than anything else. I think he's accomplished a great deal and there are many works of his I like a lot, but I would not call him the future of classical ballet. To be the future of something, it would have to be your first love.

St. Petersburg has already seen one third of Impressing the Czar - the middle section is "In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated."

Thanks for noting the differences between Artifact and Artifact II, Helene (I'm writing off the top of my head) and I got my underworlds mixed up - Eidos:Telos is a take on the myth of Persephone, not Orpheus.

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I've often wondered how a choreographer who has created his ballets mainly for singles/duos/trios could be termed the "successor to Petipa & Balanchine."

Called by whom? A good press office can generate some tenacious myths.

Also, who's Forsythe's competition for the title? "Successor to . . ." (especially when referring to as versatile and fecund an artist as Balanchine) doesn't specify criteria. It's wide open. THEY (you know who I mean :)) are all successors to Petipa and Balanchine, in one way or another. Worthy is another issue.

Sad, isn't it?

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At last year's White Nights Festival in St Petersburg, a presentation of a Forsythe triple bill was subtitled, in theater posters & all other publications, "Balanchine's Heir." It was presented during a so-called "Balanchine-100th Birthday Week" in June 2004.

Balanchine was a prolific choreographer, with works ranging from the Serenades down to the PAMTGGs. I don't consider the PAMTGGs as definitive Balanchines. Would anybody who is asked to name five quintessential Balanchine works include PAMTGG or Variations Pour Une Porte et Un Soupir on their lists? Would they even call La Valse , Apollo, or Prodigal Son 'quintessential Balanchine'? I think not. Rather, people will list Serenade, Agon, Concerto Barocco, Theme & Variations, Symphony in C, Ballet Imperial, Four TTs, etc....works that can truly be called successors to Petipa due to their large-scale, heirarchical compositions, utilizing all levels of a corps de ballet and soloists.

That doesn't take away from the fact that the four Forsythe works on view in London, as danced by the Kirov, are works of high art. My problem is with calling Forsythe the successor of Balanchine, just as Balanchine was the worthy successor of Petipa. Forsythe is Forsythe -- and that should be good enough for the Kirov!

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Balanchine was a prolific choreographer, with works ranging from the Serenades down to the PAMTGGs.  I don't consider the PAMTGGs as definitive Balanchines. Would anybody who is asked to name five quintessential Balanchine works include PAMTGG or Variations Pour Une Porte et Un Soupir on their lists? Would they even call La Valse , Apollo, or Prodigal Son 'quintessential Balanchine'? I think not. Rather, people will list Serenade, Agon, Concerto Barocco, Theme & Variations, Symphony in C, Ballet Imperial, Four TTs, etc....works that can truly be called successors to Petipa due to their large-scale, heirarchical compositions, utilizing all levels of a corps de ballet and soloists.

I've branched this off into a separate thread on "What is the Quintessential Balanchine?," found here:

http://ballettalk.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=20271

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