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 Post subject: Forsythe Study Day
PostPosted: Fri Aug 04, 2000 6:04 am 
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Image <P>'Quintett' by Ballett Frankfurt<P><BR>This is an article about the Study Day linked to the visit to Sadler's Wells about 18 months ago. It has been placed here in anticipation of our forthcoming Features page. <P><BR><u>Introduction</u><P>Autumn 1998 was a great time for the annual Dance Umbrella festival and the newly reopened Sadler's Wells. There was a wealth of riches from both sources and the much-anticipated visit of Ballett Frankfurt represented the first Dance Umbrella event in the new venue. Blissfully, this all to brief season exceeded our high expectations, and was greeted with rave reviews from the critics and contemporary and ballet fans shouting their appreciation. I went to the Friday night performance and then attended the Forsythe Study Day on the Saturday. After that I simply had to go back to see the Company a second time. <P>This personal view concentrates on the Study Day, which was organised by Nigel Hinds of Sadler's Wells and Ann Nugent, with help and input from others, including Susie Crow of BIG (Ballet Independents Group). The programme had two intermixed components - one group of sessions featured the architect Mark Goulthorpe and the writers Rosylyn Sulcas and Ann Nugent. In the second, dancers were centre stage. For me, this latter group was more interesting and I shall focus on these sessions. <P><u>Nik Heffner</u><P>Nik Haffner is a dancer with the Company, who is also an IT specialist. Working with Forsythe, he has developed a CD-ROM presentation, which describes the improvisation techniques that the choreographer uses and includes short illustrations from the repertoire. This brilliant use of technology has now been further developed and the CD-Rom, 'Improvisation Technologies' is available from <A HREF="http://www.dancebooks.co.uk/cgi-bin/search.asp?prod_type=all+titles&key_word_str=Forsythe&kw_type=or&search_type=keyword&action=Start+search" TARGET=_blank>Dance Books</A> for £27. It includes a detailed formulation of Forsythe's choreoghraphic methodology, a 17 minute solo dance by Forsythe himself and an accompanying booklet.<P>Nik was not dancing during the week, but spent his time in London taking groups of UK choreographers and dancers through the CD-ROM and the related techniques. This may well prove to be one of the most influential aspects of the visit. Scrolling through a hierarchy of menus, Nik showed us Forsythe explaining in simple language how a system of improvisation is derived from a series of basic movements, which can then evolve as reflections, or transformations performed either on other parts of the body or in a different position. For instance, in one piece he asked a group of dancers to walk across the stage and trace their names with the top-most vertebrae. In another improvisation, basic ballet steps were transformed into arm movements. We also saw an example where a dancer worked with a number of sequences, one of which had been given the label 'A'. 'A' stands for 'Abraham Lincoln' and consists of movements such as a representation of his cylindrical hat and his beard drawn out by hand from his chin. These basic movements were then transformed in a variety of ways by the dancer to create a piece of choreography, which although improvised, had links with the movements of other performers in the piece when using 'A' as a ground. <P>This fascinating presentation illustrated the crucial role of improvisation in Forsythe's work and explained why the original dancers now share the credit for choreography. Most pieces include at least some element of improvisation actually in performance. For instance, 'In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated' has a couple of 10 second sections where the Royal Ballet dancers improvise. It also explains how Forsythe's work can be so rich with movement, by using these shorthand techniques to generate choreography. Despite the importance of the creativity of the dancers, the final word lies with Forsythe, who will frequently look at a sequence of steps and decide it just doesn't work well enough to be included. <P><BR><u>Deborah Bull</u><P>The highlight of the afternoon was Deborah Bull. Relaxed and witty, she raised everyone's spirits with a heartfelt presentation. She told us how in the 1990s she had felt frustrated that there was no great choreographer creating works for the dancers of the Royal Ballet in the way that Ashton and McMillan had in earlier decades. Then she experienced working with Forsythe and it was a revelation for her. <P>Deborah had been surprised that Forsythe wanted her for 'In the Middle..' as he had not really seen her dance, but only seen her outline some movements while a second cast was rehearsing a work from the repertoire. She and the other dancers involved then spent several weeks learning the basics of the piece with Glen Tuggle, one of the Frankfurt Ballet Masters. Having overcome the initial strangeness of a different, but wonderful movement vocabulary, she then had the worry of performing for the first time in front of the choreographer, himself . From earlier experiences, she knew that just because you have satisfied an assistant does not mean that the boss will like it! She decided to 'go for it' in her own way and to her relief, Forsythe approved. She told us how Forsythe does not worry if movements are sometimes not performed perfectly and that, because this fear of failure is removed, dancers actually fail far less often. <P>Deborah described the period preparing Steptext with Forsythe as, 'Six weeks in Paradise'. There has been much discussion of how Steptext was a consolation prize, when the original piece to be prepared for the Royal Ballet had not been pursued. Rather than the RB being incapable of the steps required, she told us that Forsythe decided that it would simply be unrealistic to ask the Company to spend the time required to learn his distinctive vocabulary. In describing the process of preparing the work, she told us how the one-minute gestural improvisation at the start of Steptext was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences she has ever endured on stage. Although the complete work is only 14 minutes long, Deborah always feels a build-up of acid in the muscles of her arms as well as her legs, because of the intense whole-body activity required in the work. Clearly the choreographer has made an enormous impression on Deborah Bull and, as was echoed by the other dancers taking part, she values the experience of working with him immensely. <P><BR><u>Dana Casperson</u><P>The final session was a forum with the speakers joined by Dana Caspersen, a dancer with Ballett Frankfurt. She described how the Company does ballet class each day, which still provides the most appropriate basis for their work in combination with the improvisation exercises described earlier. Given the sharply kinetic movements of the pieces, one questioner asked about the injury rate in the Company. Dana replied that the natural flow of the choreography helps to alleviate the problems, but that, like all dance, it's a dangerous game with injury a regular event. <P>She was asked about the problems for companies and audiences coping with a dance spectrum that includes Forsythe's contemporary work as well as classical pieces from the 19th Century. She rejected this concept and said that it really felt like part of the same body of work to her, rather than distinct entities. Deborah Bull told us that she believes that, as the millennium approaches, Forsythe's 'Ballet-ballets' should be a part of the repertoire of every major ballet company. <P>The question of democracy in ballet companies was raised. As mentioned earlier, the Frankfurt dancers are now given co-credit for choreography and there is no hierarchy of dancers - no Principals coming out from the curtains to take applause. Deborah commented that in her view the major ballet companies have only a few years to modernise and democratise, if they are to survive and develop. Given the apparent esprit de corps and commitment of the Ballett Frankfurt dancers, I was convinced that the democratic approach has a lot to commend it. Overall, the Study Day was a great success and I hope it will be the first of many at Sadler's Wells, as dance appreciation classes are few and far between in London. <P><BR><u>Conclusion</u><P>Having been immersed in Forsythe's work all day, it was exciting to attend the triple bill again. The middle work, Enemy in the Figure, is simply one of the most electrifying pieces of dance I have ever seen. The combination of movement, lighting, costumes and set design producing an overwhelming experience. The final work Quintett shows us a different side of Forsythe, quieter and more contemplative in this piece that dates from the period when his young wife was dying of cancer. Throughout the evening the dancing of all the members of the Company was superb. Stephen Galloway was a revelation, performing with a speed, fluidity and assurance that took my breath away and Dana Caspersen in Quintett vividly conveyed the emotion of the work with superb technique and expressive phrasing. <P>It was wonderful to have this 26-hour sample of Ballett Frankfurt's large body of work and to catch a glimpse of the shape of things to come. The Company is scheduled to make a return to Sadler's Wells in 2001. I can't wait! <BR><p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited August 04, 2000).]


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 Post subject: Re: Forsythe Study Day
PostPosted: Fri Aug 04, 2000 8:24 pm 
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Thanks, Stuart. Well done. I found this bit interesting:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Given the sharply kinetic movements of the pieces, one questioner asked about the injury rate in the Company. Dana replied that the natural flow of the choreography helps to alleviate the problems, but that, like all dance, it's a dangerous game with injury a regular event.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>Does this mean that in spite of the dangerous-looking choreogaphy, the rate of injury when dancing Forsythe is no worse than for other ballets?


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 Post subject: Re: Forsythe Study Day
PostPosted: Fri Aug 04, 2000 9:45 pm 
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That's what she was saying, Azlan. It is believable given the familiarity of the dancers with the Forsythe method. I'd like to see some stats, before being totally convinced, however. <P>On the other hand, one wonders what happens in other companies like the Royal who perform his works occasionally.<P>On a similar theme, a dancer in La La La Human Steps told us at a post-performance talk that the injury rate there is very low despite the frantic kinematics. The reason being that they rehearse the works over 3 months, starting slowly and increasing the speed. Apparently, with no understudies, they have not cancelled a show because of injury in 20 years on the road. <p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited August 04, 2000).]


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 Post subject: Re: Forsythe Study Day
PostPosted: Fri Aug 04, 2000 11:18 pm 
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I hope I will be forgiven for posing in the context of this strand what is a VERY long piece, even by my standards. This is a paper I first wrote back in January 1999 under the title " What is choreographic style? Consider the question, illustrating your argument with examples from the work of one choreographer and referring to the context in which s/he creates ballets." It is centred on the work of William Forsythe and developed from a study I made of his work around this time. The reference to Roland Barthes and to the specific text that is mentioned, Is There Any Poetic Writing, was a personal insight from the choreographer.<P>For copyright reasons I have removed the various illustrations that were included in the original and modified the text accordingly.<P>I hope that this will be found interesting and would welcome any feedback. (PS Grace. Sorry about the ink cartridges.)<P><BR><U>Introduction</U><P>In trying to come to some definition of choreographic style this study will consider both how it imposes identity on a work and the relationship between it and the other constituent aspects of ballet. By addressing these issues the importance of stylistic elements may become more apparent, allowing some exposition to be reached that encompasses the multi-faceted nature of the concept of style.<P>The discussion, though fundamentally philosophical, does require a degree of empirical support. By looking at how a particular choreographer makes use of the diverse stylistic possibilities of the media critical analysis can be used to supplement logical deduction. For the purpose of this study the choreographer whose ballets will be central to the analysis is William Forsythe.<P><BR><u>Style and Interpretation</u><P>From the outset it seems evident that any analysis of choreographic style must be concerned with the work in performance and will as a consequence have to consider the intent of more than just one individual. Because intent is important it will be looked at later in this analysis of function. Whatever it may be, style requires a medium through which it can be presented. It is here that far more than the choreographer’s agenda becomes apparent.<P>In any ballet the dancers will have different physiques with different proprioceptive responses. They will come from different social backgrounds and exhibit individual psychological responses. In addition they may have had a wide diversity of dance educations, having trained at various schools and in various genres of dance. These result in stylistic qualities innate to the way each dancer moves that, to a greater or lesser degree, give individual identity to their dancing. Even the choreographer who performs in his or her own work will find that their own body has a distinct style of movement that defines the way it will respond. This can place limits on how far even the choreographer is able to fulfil his or her own intention.<P>Adina Armelagos and Mary Sirridge emphasise the importance of the dancers’ body in dance in their essay Personal style and Performance Prerogatives (1984). This outlines the stylistic contribution of the dancer as being twofold. Firstly, what they term “general style”, being principally concerned with the technical aspects of spatial vocabulary, movement and kinaesthetic motivation. Secondly, what they term personal style, which allows for the dancer’s involvement in the creation of the dance work (Armelagos, 1984, 86).<P>Clearly the dancer is not inanimate, as is the case with the media used in the plastic arts. As a consequence of being portrayed through an independent interpreter, a dance is bound to have stylistic elements impinged upon it other than those of the choreographer, a common characteristic of all the performing arts.<P>Here the problem of to what extent interpretation may be destructive of choreographic style arises. In other performing arts the fragility of the stylistic elements tend to be far less pronounced. An actor portraying Hamlet may deliver the famous soliloquy in a variety of ways, but the text will retain much of its Shakespearean style. Similarly, a musical score will generally contain enough information to allow the musicians to reproduce the original intent of the composer with a fair degree of stylistic accuracy.<P>A movement text has a much less secure sense of identity, even if it exists in one of the notated forms. It can be far more fundamentally changed by the qualities of movement displayed by different performers then would a written or musical text. However rather than being a weakness in the art form it creates a level of dynamic tension between the choreographer and the dancer. This can in itself inspire new works and define new styles.<P>As a result it has become increasingly common for the choreographer to take on a group of dancers to act as principal interpreters of their work. Consequently one aspect of style is exercised in the choice of performers. This involves the choreographer in the selection of dancers who can both inspire and fulfil their choreographic intention. In this way the issue of identity, which is a primary function of style, becomes apparent at the corporate level. The choreographer creates an institution that acts as a dedicated instrument for the interpretation of his or her own works. The degree to which they then become identified with the company marks out a level of stylistic commitment on both the part of the choreographer and of his or her dancers. Since he became director of the Ballett Frankfurt, in 1984, Forsythe has fashioned the company into one intimately associated with him and his ballets. He has also been able to use the resources of the institution to develop a style of performance that is characteristically his own.<P>Following on from this it is necessary to look at how style functions at a more individual level to give identity to a choreographers work.<P><BR><u>Style and Identity</u><P>Style is not a quality of conformity, rather an aspect that distinguishes one work from another. For this reason it and identity are fundamentally bound together. Stylistic qualities allow for varying levels of categorisation, from broad artistic movement down to the individual choreographer’s characteristic style.<P>One of the problems of the post-modern cultural imperative has been the breaking down of the distinctions between the various categories of art form. Historically speaking movements such as Classicism, Romanticism and Modernism have all exhibited stylistic features that were used to place the artist and his or her work within distinct genres. Post-modernism challenges the coherence of these boundaries. By so doing it allows for the reinterpretation of previously accepted notions, such as the distinctions made between art forms and that between high and low culture.<P>An example of both occurs in one of Forsythe’s early ballets Love Songs, created for the Stuttgart Ballett in 1979. Its use of songs from the 1960s and a contemporary bar setting may seem prosaic, but its merging of the idioms of ballet and pop culture is illustrative of the stylistic eclecticism that features so strongly in post-modern choreography. There is also an irony in the use of a ballet company, which is frequently regarded as hierarchical in structure, to illustrate a social order in disintegration. In ‘Always something there to remind me’ the male partner grips the ballerina by her shoulders and violently shakes her. In response she throws him to the ground, walking over him on pointe with stabbing like steps. These give the pas de deux the quality of an Apache Dance.<P>Such eclecticism is not without its critics. Part of the problem of style is that it can be viewed as acting as a façade or an insubstantial entity, added to a ballet more for effect then for substantive reasons. (This is an issue that recurs through out this study.) By merging pop culture into ballet, choreographers such as Forsythe are open to the charge that they are merely being reflective, rather than analytical, of fashionable trends. Arlene Croce, writing of the Joffery Ballet production of Love Songs, condemns such works as acting merely to “…inform people that the attitudes circulating throughout our culture can also be found at the ballet…” (1981, 148).<P>This critical reaction, that such works are inherently superficial, has to be interpreted within the seeming triviality of the post-modern cultural environment. As Susan Sontag has pointed out in her essay On Style, contemporary styles do not retain their qualities for long enough to become identifiable but “…instead succeed one another so rapidly as to seem to give their audiences no breathing space to prepare” (Sontag, 1965, 35), resulting in them being unintelligible.<P>Though Love Songs is not highly regarded critically, Senta Driver having described it as the “least interesting of Forsythe’s works” (Driver, 1991b, 83), it has remained in the repertoire of several ballet companies. As most ballets have something of a short shelf life, normally falling from the performance schedule after a single season, it would be reasonable to conclude that there was something about this work that explained its longevity. The piece in some way transcends the changes that have occurred in the cultural environment. This cannot be because of its reference to 60s fashion because, even allowing for some level of retro-chic, it is caricature of a period piece. However the characters are still manifestly recognisable, involved in a subtext which Forsythe himself has described, in his introduction to the filmed version of the Joffery Ballet’s production, as figures acting in an absurd fashion, whilst being unaware of their own absurdity (Kinberg, 1989). In this sense it has an element of pastiche. The situation and how the characters react are probably intelligible to anyone who has ever drunk too much and made a fool of themselves. What is different is that it is being expressed through the medium of ballet, a form of dance that has accepted aesthetic conventions that the piece seems to break. The challenge therefore is not in understanding what is being said, but in understanding the way it is being said. This concords with a further obsession of post-modernism with the sign system analysis of semiotics.<P>Integrating this into the function of choreographic style what becomes apparent is the way the language of dance works to create a sense of identity. The use of vocabulary and syntax will be discussed later, but it is clear that there is also a manner of articulating dance that distinguishes the individual choreographers’ style.<P>Following on from the symbolic function of style and the post-modern eclecticism it is necessary to analyse how the stylistic elements of Classicism pervade contemporary balletic choreography.<P>The importance of the role of the interpreter has already been examined. As has been pointed out the selection of performers will have far reaching effects on the style a work will have in performance. It is here that, to a certain extent, choice of dance genre is being made. Working with a company that is primarily balletic in its training, has ballet as its core class technique and is generally viewed as being a ballet company necessitates acceptance that both performers and audience will, to a certain extent, view the work through a set of preconceived notions as being balletic. If the choreographer has a background that is similarly dominated by the balletic idiom logic would dictate that some aspects of it would be manifest in the style of their choreography. Thus William Forsythe is regarded as a ballet rather than a contemporary (modern dance) choreographer.<P>The acceptance of this requires the acceptance of the stylistic features of Classicism with which ballet is imbued. Amongst these are the appearance of proportion, balance and symmetry. Appearance is in this sense important because the qualities must exist at a perceptual rather than just a mathematical level if something is to be categorised as being classical.<P>The problem that such stylistic features raise is to what extent they define the work of the choreographer and how far he or she is able to reject them. Forsythe’s identification with the work of the French writer and semiologist Roland Barthes (1915-1980) is a case in point.<P>Barthes approach to classicism, in his essay Is There Any Poetic Writing, is coloured by his rejection of what he describes as the “…attributes of language, which are useless but decorative” (Barthes, 1953, 53). This accords with the notion of style as an unnecessary encumbrance on the work. It also presupposes the possible existence of a work of art that has no style. This seems unlikely, as such a work would possess no sense of identity. As Sontag makes clear “there are no style-less works of art, only works of art belonging to different, more or less complex stylistic traditions and conventions” (Sontag, 1965,22).<P>In describing classical poetry Barthes terms it as “…the fruit of an art” (1953, 53), using the term art as a synonym of technique. On this basis it would appear that Forsythe’s identification with Barthes presupposes his own rejection of Classicism and consequently a rejection of the form of dance most closely associated with it. On a superficial level the appearance of some of his works may suggest that he has created a movement genre that does leave behind the accepted notions of ballet. However, on closer examination, it becomes apparent that there is a more complex dynamic within the style of the dance form.<P>The eclectic nature of post-modern works has allowed an expansion of both the vocabulary and the syntax of ballet through a series of fusions with other techniques, such as contemporary and jazz. As a result other cultural movements, both artistic and ethnic, have augmented those elements of Classicism that are innate to ballet. This has had noticeable effects on the stylistic nature of ballet and on those choreographers working within its idiomatic forms.<P>Thus post-modern choreographic works present an amalgamation of artistic styles that, by their respective prominence, give identity to the choreographers work. A notable example occurs in Forsythe’s Enemy in the Figure, which he choreographed for the Frankfurt Ballett in 1989. Here there is a seeming reference to one of the stylistic forms of the Neue Sachlichkeit, or New Objectivist, movement that emerged in Germany in the 1920’s. In particular to the work of Oscar Schlemmer (1888-1943), a painter and choreographer who worked at the Bauhaus in Weimar during this period.<P>Schlemmer’s conceptual realisation of the relationship between figures in movement and the space they inhabit bares some accord to Forsythe’s dancers moving within “…an environment bathed in technology” (Sulcas, 1998, 12). Both choreographers being responsible for their own designs also costumed their dancers in a way that fundamentally altered their body shape.<P>In other ways the styles diverge considerably. Some contemporaries regarded Schlemmer’s best-known work, the Triadische Ballett (1922), as not according with any recognisable dance genre. Conversely Enemy in the Figure is clearly balletic, despite the disturbing imagery that overlays its text. At one point, the dancers who are costumed so abstractly perform a series of very rapid posés tours. The result is startling, for the classical step actually serves to enhance the modernist costume and vice versa.<P>This symbiosis of styles gives the work a level of coherence that it might have otherwise lacked, but which is essentially underlined by its classical identity. Any theoretical rejection of classicism would be null and void. To be fair to Forsythe he recognises that the solution is to be found within the classical context (Gardiner 1996). As a ballet choreographer he must find that the de facto classicism of the genre pervades the identity of his work, leaving its acceptance as his only recourse.<P><BR><u>Style and Understanding</u><P>An appreciation of the varying ways style makes identification possible allows some understanding of a work to be achieved. The degree to which meaning, both obvious and hidden, can be revealed within a piece is an aspect of its decipherability. Within the non-discursive medium of dance the complexity of this issue requires some examination.<P>Human beings are natural born communicators. At its most basic level this is illustrated by the way an infant uses sound and gesture to convey its needs. However higher levels of communication are far more complex and require degrees of learning before the messenger is able to utilise the requisite signs to generate the intended meaning. These complex constructs are used by the individual both to define their relationship to the world about them and to interpret what they witness. Thus decipherability will have an existential component that is dependent upon the individual's appreciation of any given signal interpreted through their own levels of experience and learning. The use of any language, discursive or otherwise, presupposes at least a partial mastery of its idiomatic forms, both on the part of the teller and the told.<P>The various genres of art forms can extend the process of communication into levels of abstraction ranging from the immediately accessible to the highly obscure. However the position of any work within the spectrum of decipherability should not be thought of as concording with any value judgement. The merit of a ballet does not depend on it requiring any specific degree of decoding and making pejorative remarks about a piece based on its immediacy takes artistic analysis into the realms of intellectual snobbery.<P>Considering the spectral nature of style and how it allows some understanding of the work to be achieved Forsythe has provided two descriptive analyses for the placement of his works. In speaking of his appreciation of classical ballet he describes his reaction as the “…joy of the evident”, whilst saying that he does “…enjoy watching things emerge that require a quick eye” (Gardiner, 1996). In either case comprehension requires a pre-existing knowledge of the salient form.<P><BR><u>Style and Intention</u><P>Intention as an aspect of style is problematic. The logic of intentionallity is that whilst it might not fully circumscribe the choreographic process it does initiate it. Also to view a ballet in the abstract, as it would be from this point of origin, would be senseless for it exists to be performed. Whatever the function of choreographic style it manifests itself in performance.<P>In order to understand how it influences style it is important to view it within the total dynamics of the creation of a ballet. The following shows how process act as a bridge between the initial intention of a work and its final realisation.<P>INTENTION<BR>Aesthetic<BR>Philosophical<BR>Socio-political<BR>Psychological<P>PROCESS<BR>Technique<BR>Experimentation<BR>Rehearsal<BR>Design<BR>Discussion<P>REALISATION<BR>Production<BR>Event<BR>Performance<P>These lists, whilst not definitive, serve to illustrate some of the complexities involved in the creation of a dance work and the problem of determining at what point choreographic style can be said to emerge. It is also apparent that the intention may change as a result of both process and realisation. The (original) diagram illustrates this by the presence of dashed arrows, which give it the quality of a feedback loop. As a result of the systems circulatory nature it can become increasingly difficult to see where, after a period of time has elapsed, the genesis of a work lay.<P>At this point the relevance of intent and even its very existence can come into question. It would be more reasonable however to assume that this problem arises because the initial definition was too limited. Intentionality is not just a single thought that sparks off the process, but a process of its own, altering with events and taking on an organic quality.<P>As a consequence of this process it has to be asked to what extent the choreographer can be said to retain authorship of a ballet that has been influenced by external events and the work of other people. Already recognition has been made of the presence of corporate stylistic identity as seen in performance, but here it takes on a deeper level of significance. If the relevance of the choreographer to the final form of the work is lost then so to is the stylistic identification with him or her. Consequently the possibility of coming to some kind of understanding diminishes. As Barthes comments in his essay The Death of the Author “Once the author is removed, the claim to decipher a text becomes futile” (Barthes, 1968, 35).<P>In a way Forsythe has moved towards a denial of his own authorship by giving his dancers collaborative credit for the choreography of works such as Hypothetical Stream 2 (1997) and Quintet (1993). The question arises as to why he should choose to do so? <P>Seán Burke’s analysis of the theory of the death of the author is that it attests “…to a departure of belief in authority, presence, intention, omniscience and creativity” (Burke, 1992, 22). From this point of view Forsythe seems to be rejecting much of his own responsibility, both as a creative artist and as the company’s director. As an example he has described the initial process in the creation of the ballet Sleepers Guts (1996) as involving no scheduling nor casting, but with the dancers of the Ballett Frankfurt working singly or in groups on their own movement material. His own contribution to the work he describes as principally editorial (Sulcas, 1997, 35).<P>Taken to its logical conclusion this form of process would result in authorship having a wholly corporate identity. As a consequence choreographic style would only exist within the company that had developed the work and, even more specifically, with those persons involved in its genesis. Any change in its original casting would result in the ballets total loss of identity. Also the lack of some overriding imperative able to make artistic as well as editorial decisions would radically effect the coherence of the piece. It would be a collage of all the stylistic qualities of each of its contributors.<P>The existence of coherent works, able to be presented by different groups of dancers, logically defies the rejection of authorship. According to Burke “A massive disjunction opens up between the theoretical statement of authorial disappearance and the project of reading without the author (Burke, 1992, 154). The ballets of Forsythe possess characteristics that identify him as their choreographer. In crediting his dancers he may be giving them due recognition for their work within the process, but he cannot assign them authorship.<P><BR><u>Style and Technique</u><P>Having recognised the importance of choreographic style in giving identity to a work it is now necessary to define its relationship to the other constituent aspects of a ballet.<P>That style is an integral part of content is a prerequisite for any rational that regards it as having a substantive character. If a duality exists between style and content the former would serve a merely decorative function.<P>The content of a dance work encompasses a wide spectrum of possible variables. The way a dancers’ body is used to shape space in both movement and stillness. The individual movements themselves and the way they are sequenced into phrases of varying dynamic qualities. The spatial relationship between the dancers and within the dance space. All of these are relevant to any work, whether or not it has a narrative.<P>Much of this falls within the scope of technique. Janet Adshead describes technique as being manifest in the different genres that exist as a “selection” of all the possible ranges of movement. This equates to a core vocabulary, though not necessarily to syntax. The latter is constructed by the choreographers’ use of “distinctive ranges” within the initial selection, resulting in what Adshead describes as “dance styles”. By the use of these styles the choreographer creates their own choreographic style (Adshead, 1988, 22). This rationale, that technique is a prerequisite of choreographic style is also supported by Graham McFee (McFee, 1992, 201).<P>Clearly dance styles are not immutable for, as McFee makes clear, the process of choreography can bring about new techniques (McFee, 1992, 205). This can be seen in the emergence of the post-modern fusion of ballet with other genres. However this should not be regarded simply as a process of assimilation into a uniform technique. There is within modern balletic choreography still a general weighting towards the classical form, which has already been described in the discussion of identity. At the same time it has created a level of redundancy in both the vocabulary and syntax. Many of the steps of elevation, such as terre à terre work and in particular batterie, have fallen out of use. Such subtle movements seem to have become regarded as ornamental. Instead greater prominence has been given to extending the amplitude of certain movement, resulting in a dynamic shift towards a higher level of athleticism in the technique of ballet.<P>This is seen in works such as In The Middle Somewhat Elevated which Forsythe choreographed for the Paris Opera Ballet in 1987. In it the technical aspects of ballet, the use of balance, flexibility, agility and co-ordination are pushed almost to their possible extremes (Sulcas, 1995, 57). Because of this the emphasis is on the technique, as it is that aspect of the ballet that is central to its focus. As a result technique and style become a unity within a dance form that is essentially commenting upon itself.<P>This had been a central focus of Forsythe’s style for some time before he choreographed this work. Speaking in an interview in 1984 he remarked that “the most important thing is how you speak with the language, not what you say” (Kirchner, 1984, 6). As a consequence just by being a dance work the ballet justifies its own existence. For the choreographer the act of making dance is motivation in itself.<P>This raises important questions of how far technique can take the genre. If the limits of what the dancers are physically capable of achieving were to be reached would both the technical and stylistic possibilities be exhausted? At this point would the media lose its expressive potential and become obsolete?<P>Because technique exists in a state of flux this is unlikely to happen. It evolves in a dynamic way across the work of succeeding generations of choreographers. Like any language it not only shapes the user and the way he or she makes use of it but is shaped by them. Where it can no longer give symbolic expression to what is trying to be said it will be changed in order to do so. That is not to say that the new forms that develop will be in any sense better or worse, only that they will be different.<P><BR><u>Conclusion</u><P>The role of style in imparting identity to a ballet is not its only function. If the scope of this study were extended it would take in the sense to which style acts to preserve works. By establishing characteristic patterns that help retain the work’s place in the public consciousness it has what Sontag refers as a “mnemonic function” (1965, 34). Specific analysis of this within the context of Forsythe’s work, or that of any choreographer, would have to take into account to what extent he was interested in the survivability of his own work (Baudoin and Gilpin, <A HREF="http://www.frankfurt-ballett..de/" TARGET=_blank>http://www.frankfurt-ballett..de/</A> ).<P>What choreographic style does is to communicate the existence of a ballet as a work of artistic endeavour. At the same time as answering the question of where the work has come from, the identity factor, it asks how and why it has been brought into existence and what meaning can be deciphered from it.<P>Style exists as a consequence of the choices a choreographer makes, of movement genre, performers, designers and accompaniment. These both define the work and are defined by it. The one option that is not available to the choreographer is the denial of the existence of style.<P>Note from Stuart:<BR>The bibliography for this paper is given in the post below.<P><p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited August 05, 2000).]


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 Post subject: Re: Forsythe Study Day
PostPosted: Sat Aug 05, 2000 12:02 am 
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'WHAT IS CHOREOGRAPHIC STYLE?'<P>BIBLIOGRAPHY<P>Printed Sources<P>Adshead, Janet et al. (1988) Dance Analysis: Theory and Practice, London: Dance Books<BR> <BR>Anthony, William (1996) ‘Ballett Frankfurt, Six Counter Points, Ballettabend von William Forsythe: Forsythe in Frankfurt’, The Dancing Times, v.LXXXVI, no.1026, March, 554-555<P>Anthony, William (1996/97) ‘William Forsythe talks to William Anthony’, Dance Europe, no.7, December/January, 32<P>Anthony, William (1998) ‘Forsythe in Milan And Frankfurt: Sand Between the Toes’, The Dancing Times, v.LXXXIX, no.1059, December, 247 & 249<P>Armelagos, Adina & Marry Sirridge (1984) ‘Personal Style and Performance Perogatives’ in Sheets-Johnstone, M., ed., Illuminating Dance: Philosophical Explorations, London: Associated Press, 85-99<P>Barthes, Roland (1953) ‘Is there any poetic writing’, from ‘Writing Decree Zero’ in Sontag, Susan, ed.,(1993) A Roland Barthes Reader, London: Vintage, 53-61<P>Barthes, Roland (1968) ‘The Death of the Author’, in Heath, Stephen, trans., (1977) Image-Music-Text, Glasgow: William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd., 142-148<P>Boxberger, Edith (1994) ‘A change of paradigms in dance: William Forsythe and the Ballett Frankfurt, Jan Fabre and Saburo Teshigawara’, Ballett International/Tanz Aktuell, v.2, February, 28-32<P>Burgin, Victor (1986) The End Of Art Theory, Criticism and Postmodernity, London: The MacMillan Press Ltd.<P>Burke, Seán (1992) The Death and Return of the Author, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press<P>Croce, Arlene (1981) ‘Americans from Abroad’, in Sight Lines, New York: Alfred A Knopf, 148-151<P>Dougill, David (1998) ‘Pushed to the Limit’, The Sunday Times, 29 November, 16<P>Driver, Senta & the editors of Ballet Review (1990a) ‘A Conversation With William Forsythe’, Ballet Review, v.18, no.1, Spring, 86-97<P>Driver, Senta (1990b) ‘2 Or 3 Things That Might Be Considered Primary’, Ballet Review, v.18, no.1, Spring, 81-85<P>Fischer, Eva-Elisabeth (1987) ‘William Forsythe’s New Choreographies at the Frankfurt Ballet’, Ballett International, v.10, no.2, February, 26<P>Fischer, Eva-Elisabeth (1990) ‘The Appearance of Reality’, Ballett International, v.13, no.5, May, 24<P>Gardner, Lyn (1998) ‘Ballett Frankfurt’, The Guardian, 26 November, 12<P>Gradinger, Malve (1993) ‘Forsythe, William’, in Bremster, Martha, ed., International Dictionary of Ballet, v.1, Detroit: St James Press, 513-515<P>Hansen, Sophie (1998) ‘Ballett Frankfurt’, The Dancing Times, v.LXXXIX, no.1058, November, 111 & 113<P>Jordan, Stephanie (1991) ‘Review: Stephanie Jordan on Frankfurt Ballet at Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, June 1991’, Dance Theatre Journal, v.9, no.2, Autumn, 30-31 & 38<P>Kirchner, Birgit (1984) ‘Good Theatre Of A Different Kind: An Interview with William Forsythe, Newly Appointed Director Of The Frankfurt State Opera’, Ballett International, v.8, August, 4-9<P>Koegler, Horst (1998) ‘Forsythe William’, in International Encyclopaedia of Dance, v.3, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 51-53<P>Langer, Roland & Richard Sikes (1986) ‘New Directors, Part II On A Trip to The Far Corners of Dance: Frankfurt Ballet’s William Forsythe’, Dance Magazine, January, 49-511<P>Livio, Antoine (1988) ‘William Forsythe, no1 au hit parade’, Danser, no.57, June, 46-52<P>McFee, Graham (1992) ‘Style and Technique’, in Understanding Dance, London: Routledge, 197-213<P>Meisner, Nadine (1992) ‘Dangerous Dancing’, Dance and Dancers, January/February, 12-13<P>Noisette, Philippe (1998) ‘William Forsythe: ®Il faut retrouver la joie de donner¯’, Danser, no.168, June/July, 24-27<P>Odenthal, Johannes (1994) ‘A conversation with William Forsythe on the occasion of the “As a garden in this setting” premiere, December 1993’, Ballett International/Tanz Aktuell, v.2, February, 33-37<P>Parry, Jann (1998) ‘Nine go mad in concrete’, The Observer, 29 November, 6<P>Penman, Robert (1998) ‘Dance on 4’, The Dancing Times, v.LXXXVIII, no.1052, May, 767 & 769<P>Schmidt, Jochen (1986) ‘Have Your Cake And Eat It: William Forsythe’s Musical “Isabelle’s Dance” In Frankfurt’, Ballett International, v.9, no.4, April, 40-41<P>Servos, N. (1985) ‘The World Topsy-Turvy’, Ballett International, v.8, no.8, 24<P>Sontag, Susan (1965) ‘On Style’, in Against Interpretation, New York: Farrar Straus Giroux<P>Stuart, Otis (1987) ‘Forsythe’s Follies’, Ballet Review, v.15, no.3, Fall, 41-44<P>Sulcas, Roslyn (1991) ‘William Forsythe: The poetry of disappearance and the great tradition’, Dance Theatre Journal, v.9, no.1, Summer, 4-7 & 32-33<P>Sulcas, Roslyn (1995) ‘William Forsythe: Channels For The Desire To Dance’, Dance Magazine, September, 52-59<P>Sulcas, Roslyn (1997) ‘In the news: the continuing evolution of Mr Forsythe’, Dance Magazine, January, 35<P>Theatre Programs<P>Sulcas et al. (1998) Ballett Frankfurt, Saddler’s Wells Theatre Program for the performances from 24-28 November<P>Non-Printed Sources<P>Videos<P>Gardiner, Sophie (1996) Just Dancing Around - William Forsythe, Euphoria Films<P>Hauer, Debra (1997) From A Classical Position, Euphoria Films, Thom Willems, William Forsythe & Dana Caspersen<P>Kinberg, Judy & Thomas Grimm (1989) Love Songs, WNET/New York & Danmarksradio, William Forsythe, The Joffrey Ballet<P>Marks, Stephany & Mac Gibbon (1997) Steptext, London: BBC, J.S. Bach, William Forsythe, The Royal Ballet<P>Walters, Nigel (1993) The South Bank Show -Sylvie Guillem, London, LWT<P>Internet Sites<P>Baudoin, Patricia & Heidi Gilpin, ‘Proliferation and Perfect Disorder: William Forsythe and the Architecture of Disappearance’ on the Ballett Frankfurt web site at <A HREF="http://www.frankfurt-ballett.de/" TARGET=_blank>http://www.frankfurt-ballett.de/</A> <P>‘Behind the China Dogs’ on the New York City Ballet web site at <A HREF="http://www.nycb.com/RepNotes/ChinaDogs.html" TARGET=_blank>http://www.nycb.com/RepNotes/ChinaDogs.html</A> <P>‘In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated (Forsythe)’ at <A HREF="http://www.ens?lyon.fr/%7Eesouche/danse/Inthe.html" TARGET=_blank>http://www.ens?lyon.fr/%7Eesouche/danse/Inthe.html</A> <P>William Forsythe page on the Netherlands Dans Theater web site at <A HREF="http://www.euronet.nl/users/candi/WF.html" TARGET=_blank>http://www.euronet.nl/users/candi/WF.html</A> <BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Forsythe Study Day
PostPosted: Sat Aug 05, 2000 12:18 am 
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Tuk, no need for apologies. Many thanks for sharing this with us. I'm really looking forward to reading your considered view of one of the most influential and imaginative choreographers around.<P>I sometimes wonder if we will look back on modern ballet as pre- and post-Forsythe.<P>


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 Post subject: Re: Forsythe Study Day
PostPosted: Fri Jun 15, 2001 9:17 pm 
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Theodore Bale writes about William Forsythe's CD-ROM in the second half of <A HREF="http://www.bostonherald.com/entertainment/arts_culture/danc06152001.htm" TARGET=_blank><B>this Boston Herald article</B></A>


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