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William Forsythe's "twisted, deconstructed bodies"

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There's a short but quite interesting article on William Forsythe and his new company, on the occasion of performances at London's Sadler's Wells Theatre -- in The Economist (Nov. 1-7).

Here's Link.

Willliam Forsythe article/ The Economist

This is a succiinct account of Forstyle's work, new company, the story of his problems in Frankfort, and future plans. Very well done, as is true of so much of The Economist's art and culture criticism and reportage.

Since Forstythe's older work, particularly "In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated," are in the reps of many ballet companies (Kirov, POB, Boston, Houston, PNB, Ballet Florida, among others) I thought this comment might interest BT readers:


"Born in 1949, he trained as a dancer in New York with Nolan Dingman, one of Balanchine's original dancers, and for many years immersed himself in the elaborately purist style that Balanchine acquired in the early years of the century at the Imeprial Ballet school in Leningrad. The articulations that occur in his own choreography, Mr. Forstyle explains in a borrowed Sadler's Wells dressing-room, are simply the logical extension of the Leningrad style. 'This,' he says, standing to demonstrate the torsion of waist and shoulder-line that classiscal dancers call epaulement, 'becomes this.' He increases the twisting until the position implodes, and a high-speed chain-reaction of adjustment and counter-adjustment is set in train. It is as if he were subjecting his classical dancer's body to chaos theory."

Excellent dance writing, IMO!

Forsythe's company, based in Frankfurt and secondarily in Dresden, will be touring Japan and Australia this year, and will be at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in May, 2006.

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Articles and reviews in The Economist are almost never signed. The only exceptions I'm aware of are occasional long special reports.

One of the ideas that was new to me was that Forsythe, having absorbed neoclassicism, then subjected this style to the process of exaggeration, reversal, distortion, imbalance, and sheer oddness that (apparently) constitutes "deconstruction," at least as the writer uses that concept.

I happen to like "In the Midddle ..." and "Step Text" both of which I've seen twice. One of the things that amazed me about these works was that, 24 hours after the performance, I could visuallize very little of what I've seen -- though I had a strong memory of the feelings aroused. Maybe now that I know that his work includes comments on the classical (or neoclassical) style, I'll be able to process it more efficiently and keep it longer in my visual memory.

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Here's some information on the scope of Forsythe's work -- and its expansion around the world -- from the Nederlands Dans Theater site BEFORE the folding of Ballett Frankfurt.


"Since 1984, he has directed the Frankfurt Ballet, and his works have been considered major and provocative events. With Steptext, created in 1985 for Aterballetto, Reggio Emilia, his audacious style, with its breaks and accelerations, began to attract critical attention and an enthusiastic public. His distinctive deconstructing of the language of classical ballet took definitive shape in In the Middle Somewhat Elevated, created for the Paris Opera Ballet in 1987, and New Sleep (for the San Francisco Ballet, 1987).

"William Forsythe has also choreographed ballets for the New York City Ballet ( Behind the China Dogs-1988, Herman Schmerman (Part 1)- 1992), the Royal Ballet (Firstext-1995), the Nederlands Dans Theater (Say Bye-Bye-1980, Mental Model-1983, Marion, Marion (NDT III), Four Point Counter- 1995), the Joffrey Ballet ( Square Deal-1983), the National Ballet of Canada (the second detail-1981), and his works are danced by companies all over the world, including the Royal Swedish Ballet, the Royal Danish Ballet, Finnish National Ballet, Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, Ballet de l`Opera national de Lyon, Ballet du Rhin, Batsheva dance Company, Boston Ballet, Cullberg Ballet, Pennsylvania, Ballet Florida, Carolina Ballet, American Repertory Ballet Company, Ballet du Capitole, Star Dancers Company - Tokyo, Ater Balletto - Reggio Emilia, Balletto di Toscana - Firenze, Ballet British Columbia - Vancouver, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens - Montreal, Ballet Zaragosa, Centre chorégraphique national Tours, Ballet Gulbenkian - Lissabon, Pacific Northwest Ballet - Seattle, National Ballet of Cuba, Bayerisches Staatsballett, Hamburg Ballet, Ballett der Deutschen Oper - Berlin, Ballett der Deutschen Staatsoper - Berlin, Ballett der Oper Düsseldorf, Nürnberger Ballett, Staatsoperballett - Viena, Ballet der Oper Graz, Ballett Basel, Ballet du Grand Théàtre de Genève, the Dutch National Ballet, the National Dance Company of Spain and the Australian National Ballet.

"For his own company, he has choreographed Artifact (1984), LDC (1985), Isabelle's Dance (1986), Die Befragung des Robert Scott, Same Old Story (1987), Impressing the Czar, The Vile Parody of Address (1988), Slingerland, Limb's Theorem (1989), The Loss of Small Detail (1991), ALIE/N A©TION (1992), Quintet, As a Garden in this Setting (1993),Invisible Film, Of Any If And, Eidos: Telos (1995), Six Counter Points, Sleeper's Guts (1996), Hypothetical Stream (1997), Opus 31, small void (1998). Since autumn 1990, the Frankfurt Ballet has had an official "second residence" for two months a year at the Châtelet Theater in Paris.

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Thanks for posting this article, bart.

I was at Sadlers Wells to see Forsythe on the Saturday night, and it is good to see an article so positive about his work. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking evening. I particularly enjoyed the first piece, which was called The Room As It Was and had no music, bar the dancers' breathing.

The final piece, One Flat Thing, was the one with the tables, and it is something everyone should see once, in my opinion! (Most of the time I was worried someone was going to bash their heads.) Actually I'd have liked to see that one twice, as I am sure the second time around I would have had a chance to really see what was happening.

I think Forsythe's dancers are really special. There is something about them which enables them to communicate something other contemporary dance doesn't seem to. It's hard to describe without sounding really pretentious.

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