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 Post subject: What to look for in Forsythe
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2002 9:22 am 
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<B>What to look for in Forsythe?”<BR>Monday, 18th February, 2002<BR>Linbury Studio Theatre<BR>Royal Opera House</B><P>The following is a summary of a discussion between Kathy Bennets (“KB”) (formerly Australian Ballet and now Ballet Mistress with Ballett Frankfurt) and Noah D Gelber (“NG”) (former Ballett Frankfurt dancer, and choreographer, who acts as repetiteur of certain Forsythe works), chaired by Phyllida Ritter on behalf of The Friends of Covent Garden. The evening was designed to give some insights into the two Forsythe pieces to be performed by the Royal Ballet in the forthcoming “Enduring Images” mixed bill. I have broken the debate down into convenient headings for ease of reference and have paraphrased direct speech.<P>Before the discussion began, NG coached Ernst Meisner in an excerpt from “The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude” (music by Thom Willems) and KB coached First Soloist, Marianela Nunez, and Soloist, Nathan Coppen, in an excerpt from “In the middle, somewhat elevated”.<P><B>What is Forsythe choreography?</B><P>NG: Everything that has been lost over the years when classical ballet was stuffed into a box of what we thought we should be seeing. Forsythe has used his choreography as a catalyst to get to something else.<P><B>Classical? Contemporary?<BR></B><BR>KB and NG confirm that Forsythe choreography is all classical technique and no contemporary. KB compares the female pulling back from her partner and allowing him to pull her to the next move, to a couple dancing rock n’roll. NG shows how Forsythe develops classical technique to make it quintessentially ‘Forsythe’: a standard fourth position and then that position over-stretched.<P>During her coaching, KB required Nunez to employ more strength in her arms, believing that Forsythe requires more use of the upper body and arms. The woman needs to support herself on the man with straight arms and resist him more, which allows him to pull her to the next step.<P><B>How Forsythe choreographs</B><P>He creates systems of steps in rehearsals and then puts them together later on. Perhaps even on the day of performance. Of course, that wouldn’t happen with a company, like the Royal Ballet, unfamiliar with his methods of working. The Ballett Frankfurt is used to it and can respond to something put together just before the performance. <P>Strong musicality is demanded of dancers in Forsythe choreography. Every beat is used – no carrying around of the ballerina on shoulders as the music flows in the background. Classical dancers have to learn the syncopated beat. Ballett Frankfurt dancers take home a copy of the music and live with it for a while.<P>Forsythe has been known to drop phrases in a piece because he thought it smacked of sexism. A man standing behind the woman and then carrying or presenting her in a way that is very traditional and typically ‘classical’ would be scrapped. (And KB confides that the word ‘beautiful’ is used sparingly around the great man because that is not what he is aiming for!)<P><B>Stage design</B><P>The set, if that can be spoken of, is spare and prone to even further simplification over time. The girls wear light make-up and the boys rarely wear any. Forsythe productions could never be said to be about the accoutrements. <P>There will be tutus in “Vertiginous” but tutus with a difference!<P><B>Influences </B><P>NG believes that Forsythe takes in everything he sees and studies every choreographer. NG’s personal belief is that Forsythe has taken Balanchine further – picked up where Balanchine left off. He is also affected by literature and by architecture, having studied the latter. Hence the linear, three dimensional lines in many of his ballets. He also influenced by his dancers: Marcia Haydee in particular.<P><B>Class</B><P>The audience was curious about the structure of a standard Ballett Frankfurt ballet class. KB gives a ‘normal’ ballet class. There are some differences: certain dancers come from a ballet training whilst others come to the company virtually as ballet novices and so the class must accommodate different standards and reflect different basic training. Though the jumps may show more syncopation than a standard class, she wouldn’t call this necessarily a Balanchine –style class. It is, quite simply, a lively and eclectic class.<P><B>The Dancers </B><P>Forsythe does like extended dancers with a long line and tends to favour them for the company. The demands of his choreography and its sheer athleticism do mean that the dancers are very fit and in order to maintain those levels of fitness, are very health conscious: they eat well and generally look after themselves. KB says it is normal to see all the dancers wandering around munching on a banana to replace minerals lost during a particularly heavy session.<P><B>Setting the choreography on the dancers</B><P>Rehearsal and performance tapes are used in conjunction. Different people performing the same work are studied to show the dancers the possibilities for the piece which in turn allows them to find their own level.<P>The steps are generally always the steps and vary little, but the dancers are encouraged to find their place within them.<P><B>Lighting</B><P>Forsythe takes an active part in the lighting. He sits at the front of a rehearsal and intuits what the lighting should be for each production. He has even invented his own lights to accommodate his vision.<P><B>Bringing Forsythe to other companies</B><P>KB believes that because dancing Forsythe is a liberating experience that encourages expansiveness and flow, dancers trained in the classical repertoire often feel that they perform the classical roles with greater ease and fluidity after dancing Forsythe-style. <P><B>The spectrum of works to be performed in London by the Royal Ballet</B><P>NG: “The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude” pays homage to classical ballet.<BR>KB: “In the middle, somewhat elevated” pushes ballet further.<P>KB thinks Marianela Nunez will look “fab” in the piece with her long lean look – broad shoulders nicely tapering. <P><B>In a word….</B><P>KB: Forsythe ballets are dancers’ ballets.<BR>NG: Forsythe ballets are liberating. <P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR> The Enduring Images mixed bill will be performed on 4,6,18 and 20 March at the Royal Opera House (Box office 020 7304 4000).<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><p>[This message has been edited by Emma Pegler (edited February 22, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: What to look for in Forsythe
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2002 12:08 pm 
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Thanks for this summary! Wish I'd been able to hear the discussion, it certainly sounds interesting. A liberating experience for the dancers, eh? I look forward to seeng if Sian Murphy and Laura Moreno (who KB coached at the RB insight day) in performance agree!


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 Post subject: Re: What to look for in Forsythe
PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2002 11:19 pm 
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For those who haven't tried these lecture/demonstrations, I cannot recommend them too highly. The opportunity to see how dance works are taught is a remarkable experience.


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 Post subject: Re: What to look for in Forsythe
PostPosted: Sat Feb 23, 2002 1:07 am 
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Agreed - they may not make you experts and the information may be found in articles and reviews - although there is very little written on Forsythe (I think only one book of essays now out of print!)- the fact that a ballet mistress or repetiteur associated with the choreographer confirms the view, makes the words you have read and the feelings experienced, more real. I like that aspect - that I feel more confident in my views on Forsythe because I have heard about how he works and devises his works. You have a fuller picture on which to base your views.


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