William Forsythe’s universe, with all its special intricacies, is as close as you can get to a theatrical space (a curtain that drops in the middle of the performance of “Artifact Suite”, scattering the rhythm of the piece or, in “Enemy in the Figure”, mobile panels and other objects splitting the stage into different spaces). Lighting also plays an important role in Forsythe’s work, denoting different spaces on the stage; we have stark spaces, enhancing the dancers’ silhouettes and then dark spaces into which they can disappear. Our journey through this universe starts with “The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude”. This ballet, choreographed in 1996 for Ballet Frankfurt, is the second part of “Two Ballets in the Manner of the late 20th Century”, in which the choreographer pays tribute to both Marius Petipa and George Balanchine. Forsythe has fun in this choreography teasing academic ballet codes with pinches of irony and playful deformations of ‘arabesques’ and ‘attitudes’, while multiplying turns and jumps at breakneck speed, pushing off-balance moves to the point of acrobatics. His dance has an athletic dynamic, bringing home the impact of our life force. The dancers highly challenged in interpreting this piece, which constitutes a veritable demonstration of the purity and brilliance of the classical vocabulary. In “Artifact Suite” (an extract of “Artifact”, created for Ballet Frankfurt in 1984), the choreographer continues exploring the workings of the academic dance ‘codes’ while exhibiting the secrets of three centuries of history.
For his “Suite”, Forsythe cleans the original piece of its narrative, shifting the priority instead onto its purely choreographic elements. The dancers break the scene down through a series of figures and variations, revising the basic conventional movements and steps of the academic vocabulary until they are transformed into something far more complex. The stage space changes constantly playing with the synchronisation of the dancing actions or with contrasts of symmetry-asymmetry and order-disorder, all under shifting combinations of light and shade.
In “Enemy the Figure” we reach the stage where exploration of highly complex movement lies at the centre of the piece. Point shoes are abandoned and movement plays with both all the surrounding space and objects. The choreography moves forward constantly inspecting movement with flashes of improvisation, whereby it is impossible for the dancers to ‘settle’ or ‘rest easy’ within the process, as they are always exploring at the edges of the extreme.
José Carlos Martínez