Gigs, dance, art

April 14th, 2009: William Forsythe – Second Detail / Duo / One flat thing, reproduced

@théatre de la ville

A performance by the Lyon opera ballet of three works from the 90s. I was a little too close for comfort, especially for the first one which used all of the stage, but on the whole it wasn’t much of an issue. Music by Thom Willems as usual, which is a good thing because I like his music, at least as combined with dance; it can be a little dated in the kind of sounds he uses, but that’s not really the point anyway. I’m also quite fond of the blandly descriptive titles, Forsythe is refreshing in his avoidance of pompous names, and I think it just helps keeping the focus on the dance itself .

Second Detail was the oldest one (from 1991) and was pretty much what I expected from William Forsythe. The wall, chairs and costumes were gray, the only exceptions a placard on the front of the stage reading “THE” and the white dress of a single dancer joining at the very end. The focus was for the most on group dynamics, with dancers joining or sitting in the back and those evolving groups echoing each other of at times more independent in their movements but related in their rhythm. As for the movements themselves, it was typical of what I’d previously seen of his work, taking a lot from classical ballet and pushing those elements further, as in away from graceful denial of gravity into an obvious physicality with a completely different relation to the floor and to effort. And also a high energy that translated in speed but most of all in some tension that made even the slower parts seem fast. A lot of outstretched limbs, especially at first, but I felt the overall impression moved away from classical ideas along the way, suggesting an erosion of force even though the energy remained there. The “white” dancer at the end was pretty much standing out by her trajectory through groups and detached from them more than by the dress. Overall a precisely constructed work, short on surprises but it’s an old one and there’s not much wrong with that when done this well — and it seemed highly demanding for the performers.

Duo (from 1996) was completely different. Two dancers in black using only the very front of the stage, almost all of it composed with slow movements and many pauses, low music with a lot of silence. A lot of good things in the relations between the dancers movements, but I didn’t like it much. I can’t exactly pinpoint why, but I couldn’t relate and his precision felt more academic than usual.

One flat thing, reproduced (from 2000) had the dancers performing among a grid of big tables arrayed close to each other. Total change of pace, this one was a blur. Much more of an individual focus as well, as hinted at by the different colorful workoutish costumes. Indeed the dancers were much more independent or each other, and while that made it harder to see it all — especially at close range — it made for a more captivating experience for me, with many different things going on all over the place but with a sense of unity nonetheless. The tables were used in many different ways, as obstacles and support for standing, sliding, sitting and much more, and also as a way of structuring the visual field of the audience just as much as the physical space of the performers. For this one I think my closeness to the stage meant I missed something. I saw some repetitions but couldn’t make out the big picture and there just may have been a pattern there that would add another dimension to the performance. Anyway it was clearly different from most of what I’ve seen from Forsythe, and knowing it’s also the most recent, I’m much interested in what he’s been doing these last few years. Gone were the clear links to classical ballet and even though the speed and physicality were probably even higher, it had a totally different feel. I guess I had him pigeonholed too quickly, my bad and my loss.


April 17, 2009 - Posted by | Dance | ,

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