William Forsythe: A Quiet Evening of Dance

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Published: 22nd October, 2018

A Quiet Evening of Dance is worth making a big noise about for its clever and playful exploration of the rules and vocabulary of dance. An interest in bending or breaking the rules has been driving world renowed choreographer William Forsythe since he began choreographing for the Stuttgart Ballet over 40 years ago. Since 1978 he has created a plethora of works for world class companies including The Paris Opera, Netherlands Dance Theatre, and Munich State Opera to name a few. Forsythe’s innovative and inspirational work as the director of Ballet Frankfurt for ten years led to the creation of groundbreaking works that challenged audiences to view dance in new ways. Criticized for being too modern in his creations for Frankfurt Ballet, Forsythe left the company in 2004 to pursue his unique and radical vision of dance through The Forsythe Company, which he directed from 2005-2015.

Forsythe’s recurring preoccupation in using body parts to inscribe imaginary shapes in the air through complex improvisation processes, has led to fascinating, geometrically-oriented works. Forsythe develops and organizes movement in terms of dynamic and spatial relationships, rather than pursuing stories or themes. A Quiet Evening of Dance bears all the hallmarks of this approach, presenting us with a fascinating deconstruction of his dance work.

The first half of the evening begins with three prelude pieces, Prologue, Catalogue and Epilogue, and builds to the culmination of these, Duo(2015). These intricate and playful prelude works are accompanied by birdsong, or simply the dancers’ breath.  Duets, trios and solos build movement phrases sequentially, from the simplest play between different body parts to complex and dynamic phrases that meld the precision and lightness of ballet vocabulary with the fantastic contortions of hip hop dancer Rauf “rubberlegz” Yasit. Duois the highlight of this half, the complex and fun movement conversations between the two fabulous male dancers, Brigel Gjoka and Riley Watts, left the audience laughing out loud.

Joyful music illuminates aspects of the movement and relationships between the dancers in the second half. Seventeen/ Twenty Oneis accompanied by 18thCentury composer Jean- Phillipe Rameau’s sumptuous horn and harpsichord compositions. Understated costumes of track pants and T-shirts are contrasted with brightly coloured evening gloves and running shoes, courtesy of costume designer Dorothy Merg. The dancers weave and combine in complex duets, trios and solos before a final passage for all seven performers. The hip hop dancer Yasit is paired with Ander Zabala Gomez for a mesmerizing duet where they develop a shared movement language of folding and weaving that is truly fascinating.

The inspiration for the evening’s work came from the historical text, Apollo’s Angels by Jennifer Homas, which charts the evolution of classical ballet. Homas’ historical analysis of the origins and passing preoccupations of classical ballet, defined by their epoch, caught Forsythe’s interest. He appears to have explored these historical preoccupations in different sections of the works. The stripped back aesthetic of the first half of the performance echoes a period under King Louis XIV when ballet eschewed musical accompaniment to focus on purely movement concerns.

Forsythe’s build of ideas through detailed, effortless movement conversations in the prelude works, paves the way for the joyous and celebratory combination of dance and music in the concluding pieces. This is a show not to be missed!

Sela Kiek-Callan reviewed William Forsythe’s A Quiet Evening of Dance at the State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne. It  was on from Oct 17 to 20, 2018.