Dancing Down Memory Lane with William Forsythe

Posted filed underDance.

William Forsythe (born December 30, 1949 in New York City) is an American dancer and choreographer resident in Frankfurt am Main in Hessen. He is known internationally for his work with the Ballett Frankfurt (1984–2004) and The Forsythe Company (2005–present). His early dance works are acknowledged for reorienting the practice of ballet from its identification with classical repertoire to a dynamic 21st-century art form, while his more recent works have further extended his research on the performative potentials of dance and his investigation of choreography as a fundamental principle of organization. (From Wikipedia)

Arts Journal’s Dance Beat has this story: “William Forsythe is an innovator. I doubt that fact is even up for debate among those who adore his work, those who loathe it, and those who simply scratch their heads over it. His post post-Balanchine ballets, his installations, his recent theater pieces, and his 2004 computer app, Improvisation Technologies: A Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye, have influenced choreographers, performers, teachers, and thinkers outside the dance world.

Scholars in Europe and the American continent chew over his work in the light of the ideas he has articulated. Take this sentence by Sabine Huschka (referencing an earlier text of hers in a 2010 essay in Dance Research Journal titled “Media-Bodies: Choreography as Intermedial Thinking Through in the Work of William Forsythe”): “So, performative sequences of choreographed movement fold projected, imagined, constructed, and physically remembered images of the body into processes of generating and forming movement-actions.”

Umm, yes. That is, yes as far as dance studies go. And yes as an allusion to the processes that dancers and choreographers can deal with. But I don’t think that all the spectators who attend performances of Forsythe’s work and cheer for them see what Huschka is talking about. Watching his 2008 I don’t believe in outer space, presented by The Forsythe Company at the Brooklyn Academy of Music October 26 through 29, you may decide that the medium-sized, irregularly-shaped, slightly shiny balls littering the stage represent fallen meteorites, and go on to link them with the title. But unless you’ve read everything written about Forsythe, you may not know that he and his dancers collected the wadded-up balls of tape that stagehands form when they rip apart the floor-covering that the company tours with. Why did the company amass these? They might come in handy some day.

You also might not know that in 2008, Forsythe was looking ahead to his 60th birthday; it was therefore an especially fortuitous time for him to delve into the body’s memories, desires, and anticipated events. I don’t believe in outer space can be considered an eccentric road map of his memories and those of his highly collaborative dancers. In any case, you simply take in and relish (or not) the many isolated, often absurd events powered by movement, text, lighting, and sounds. This is the first work of Forsythe’s that has made me think of Pina Bausch— except that repetition is a crucial part of her collages of vignettes, which are organized in a tidy way for maximum theatricality. Forsythe doesn’t seem to think in terms of sewing things up.”

Read on at The Arts Journal.

Image above: William Forsythe’s dancers play no-ball ping pong. Photo: Julieta Cervantes

Improvisation Technologies, A Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye

Improvisation Technologies, a Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye
zkm (Centre for Art and Media Karlsruhe) digital arts edition: special issue

William Forsythe, »Improvisation Technologies«, 1999:
Konzept und Realisation:
William Forsythe, Nik Haffner, Volker Kuchelmeister, Yvonne Mohr, Astrid Sommer, Christian Ziegler
in cooperation with Deutsche Tanzarchiv Köln SK Stiftung Kultur

William Forsythe – One flat thing reproduced

Part 2 – Part 3
William Forsythe on Youtube