Because that’s what he’s been doing to ballet for past few decades; and as a result we’ve all got to understand the art form and discern its component parts a little bit better.
The first thing to say about A Quiet Evening of Dance, the programme Forsythe has assembled for the Sadler’s Wells stage with the help of six former dancers from his own Forsythe Company plus a b-boying specialist, is that it IS quiet.
In fact, apart from a section performed to a rather desultory piano score, the first part of the evening, ACT 1, happens either in complete silence, the dancers’ breathing providing the only audible element, or to distant, barely perceptible birdsong.
It starts with Prologue, a five-minute duet for a man and a woman (Ander Zabala and Parvaneh Scharafali), which doesn’t much deviate from the norms of ballet duets, though already the various poses have a fluid, off centre quality, as if trying to liberate themselves from the strictures of formal dance.
The sections that follow – Catalogue and Epilogue – appear like a deconstruction of the steps and positions performed earlier. In the (arguably a touch too long) 15-minute Catalogue Jill Johnson and Christopher Roman stand side by side centre stage and execute ever more intricate arm and shoulders movements, sometimes perfectly synchronised, at others going their separate ways.
Epilogue seems to make a nod towards the freedom and expansiveness of birds, with five dancers in dark loose costumes and long neon-coloured gloves that have the visual effect of making their arms appear longer. Here we first meet b-boying specialist Rauf “RubberLegz” Yasit, who more than justifies his nickname…. and it’s a mark of Forsythe’s genius that he can blend balletic movements with the aesthetic of street dance in a seamless and thought-provoking continuum.
ACT 1 ends with Dialogue, a piece for two men (Brigel Gjoka and Riley Watts), which could be seen as the reassembling of all the component parts previously taken apart, only to produce a diverse piece of dance machinery.
You can’t help but admire Forsythe’s intelligence and the mathematical precision of his work, even when as a spectator you feel you’re being made to work too hard.
After the interval it comes as a huge relief to have music – proper music! – at long last. The 35-minute ACT 2, entitled Seventeen/Twenty One is danced by the full ensemble to baroque music by Rameau, the gentleness of which could well fall under the description of ‘quiet.’
With losing any of Forsythe’s trademark deconstructive method, this is a much more relatable work where the choreographer’s mischief and playfulness come to the fore. Academic ballet steps alternate with b-boying isolations. The long colourful gloves and matching shoes return. It’s a suitably rousing finale to the evening, a sort of reward for the soul for the intellectual endurance test of ACT 1.
Over the past year, we’ve had the welcome opportunity to see various aspects of Forsythe’s work, courtesy of English National Ballet and Semperoper Ballett Dresden's all Forsythe programme. A Quiet Evening of Dance shows yet another facet of William Forsythe’s scintillating work.
|What||William Forsythe, A Quiet Evening of Dance Review|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
04 Oct 18 – 06 Oct 18, 19:30 Dur.: 1 hour and 45 minutes inc one interval
|Website||Click here to book via Sadler's Wells website|