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 Post subject: Forsythe Company American Tour
PostPosted: Thu Feb 22, 2007 1:30 pm 
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They are in Berkeley, CA this week. From the Contra Costa Times.

Quote:
MARY ELLEN HUNT: FOOT NOTES
Forsythe's 'Atmospheric' makes U.S. debut
By Mary Ellen Hunt
TIMES CORRESPONDENT
The eternal struggle for comprehension amidst confusion has always marked the work of the brilliant American choreographer William Forsythe, whose "Three Atmospheric Studies" will receive its American premiere at UC Berkeley tonight.

And yet, a grieving mother coming to terms with the death of her son seems a far cry from the dazzling dance abstraction of Forsythe's 1984 "Artifact Suite," which San Francisco Ballet performed earlier this month. Well, a lot has happened in the 22 years since Forsythe first created "Artifact" and the founding of his newest venture, the Forsythe Company, which rose from the ashes of his famed Frankfurt Ballet.


more...


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 22, 2007 1:37 pm 
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Thanks for the excellent article, ME, and thanks for posting it, LMCtech.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 22, 2007 1:47 pm 
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We saw Forsythe's "Three Atmospheric Studies" in London last year and here is the link to our coverage:

http://www.ballet-dance.com/forum/viewt ... sythe+2006

While we always used to include Ballett Frankfurt under a ballet heading, with his new company Forsythe is now describing his work as "contemporary" and the Dance Umbrella visit was placed under "Modern/Contemporary". So, may I suggest to the Mods that this topic be moved to "Modern/Contemporary".


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 22, 2007 2:02 pm 
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I haven't seen the company, but everything in Mary Ellen's preview speaks about ballet. Unless they have abandoned pointe shoes, I am inclined to leave them under ballet. (Speaking for myself, I would not look to the Modern/Contemporary Forum if searching for Forsythe -- he has always been about ballet to me.)


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 23, 2007 12:25 am 
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Thanks so much! I really enjoyed speaking with him, and I love that we're having this debate about which category he falls under!


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 23, 2007 4:29 am 
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Perhaps one of the reasons why he is such an interesting artist, and so detested in some quarters, is this difficulty in fitting Forsythe into a neat box:

- I guess he must be the most performed living choreographer working for ballet companies

- Ten years ago he was still making work, such as "Duo" with a clear link to the neo-classical

- Alongside his "ballet ballets", as Deborah Bull described "In the Middle.." etc, he has always produced work for his own company which challenged classification

- In the final years of Ballett Frankfurt, with works such as "Kammer, Kammer" and now "Three Atmospheric Studies" he seems to have moved further away from what we understand by "ballet". Neither of these works have any pointe work and this technique seems ever more remote from his exploratory research. But, who knows, he may well select it again from his wide palette, if the subject and aesthetics demand it.

I did pose this question of classification to his press manager when I was in London and it was she who told me that Forsythe used the word "contemporary" to describe the company now. However, apart from the niceties of classification, Francis makes the good point that it also matters where people will look in the CD forum. I'm more than happy, of course, to leave the classification question to my "Ballet in the Americas" colleagues.

Very interested to hear what my friends in SF think of "Three etc". I suspect that many in the audience will be surprised and even shocked, as were many in London. But that's one of the many reasons why he is SO interesting. At a conference earlier this week, Javier de Frutos, choreographer and AD of Phoenix Dance, described him as the most recent revolutionary in dance and commented that he saw no signs of another on the horizon, except perhaps street dance.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 23, 2007 2:46 pm 
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Forsythe is one of those choreographers that although I don't always like all of his work, I always respect it. He seems to be extremely creative and likes to try new things. There are so many choreographers that find a comfort zone and never leave it. That tends to bore me. Forsythe is very rarely boring.

I hope some of our CD posters will go and give us their opinion. I love first hand accounts especially of controversial works.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:59 pm 
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This discussion and just being an unreconstructed Forsythe admirer whets my appetite for tonight's performance. How to classify? As a librarian by day I am grateful that libraries have convenient tools called "see" and "see also" references just to address this problem, placed where we think someone might logically look for something filed somewhere else. I'm thinking that CD needs as a major heading "Dance Theater," as so many of the newer, especially European "crossover" choreographers seem headed in that direction. Sometimes I wish we could have (at least) two ways of cataloging/searching our site for reviews and ensuing discussions in the forum: chronologically by date and by subject, where subject headings could enable "see" and/or "see also" references. What do others think?

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 23, 2007 6:08 pm 
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Greetings
Unfortunately, we are limited by the software running the forum as to how topics can be searched and catalogued and organized. We all dream of the perfect forum, but the realities of software are less than dreamlike. Of course, we welcome suggestions on improvements or rearrangements - dance is evolving and so should we - and will try to incorporate them into future planned and hoped for changes and upgrades. Feel free to contact any of the moderators or administrators with suggestions.

Meanwhile, it seems best to leave this topic for Forsythe...who perhaps will someday come to Edinburgh...perhaps...hopefully! Otherwise I'll have to find a cheap flight to Germany!

As a suggestion - perhaps we could create a 'dummy' topic in modern/contemporary which would guide people to this topic if they look in that forum. Or vice versa. That would achknowledge the great stylistic breadth of Forsythe's company.

Kate


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 24, 2007 7:55 am 
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Good points from both Toba and Kate, and as the one who raised this classification issue, I have followed the thrust of these two posts and placed a locked, cross-reference post in "Modern/Contemporary":

I've just been reading Francis Sparshott on classification systems, and if I have time I hope to start a discussion on this general theme in "Dance Issues" as she has some fascinatin examples, including Dewey. But, in my view, it's probably best that we stick to Forsythe here.

Any initial, quick thoughts on the performances?


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 24, 2007 5:26 pm 
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No pointe shoes in this one. This work is nothing like any Forsythe I have seen before.

Loved hearing what inspired him to create this work at the after perfomance talk. I wish I had heard him speak about it before seeing it. Now I want to see the work again. The dancers are incredible. Not only movement wise but as actors.

I have been thinking of this all day today and have had many discussions with my husband about it. I felt very sad and embarrased hearing some of the spoken text. "We give you what we think you need" EEK!

I really liked the advice he gave to the young dancer who wanted to know how best to prepare to be a member of his company. He told him to get life experience, and come to him a complete artist. One who would not need him.

Even though this was not the Forsythe that I have been used to, I can't wait to see what he will do next.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 24, 2007 6:24 pm 
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”Three Atmospheric Studies,” Forsythe Company, Zellerbach Auditorium, Berkeley, February 23, 1007

This is not the Forsythe you remember from in the middle somewhat elevated. It’s the expatriate Forsythe who’s spent a long time on the outside looking in. If you’ve ever been the family pariah or shunned by others, you know how disarmed, disoriented and alone you can feel when a crisis is at hand; you can feel like a mother whose son has been sacrificed for some intangible purpose belonging to history, belonging to your enemies, but not to you.

Art, politics, dance, theater: There’s a lot to look at, both in the lobby and on the stage of the North American premiere of this three-part work.Termed “anti-war” by some critics and sidelined by others because it’s not really ballet, Forsythe counters that it is in fact a statement of “citizenship.” “Anti-war” is too narrow and shallow a term to capture what he is unmasking here. He proposes a citizenship that scrutinizes an entire culture, a civilization born of a history in which “not much has changed” in two thousand years, according to remarks he makes in a post-performance reception address. Of course a lot has changed historically and technologically, and perhaps that it why it is so shattering that what hasn’t changed in two millennia is our affect. The inspiration for this work came from “The Crucifixion,” a 16th Century Lucas Cranach painting showing Mother Mary bereft and inconsolable at the sight of her son Jesus crucified for the sins of a society in decline. Pontius Pilate, “The Decider” of Ancient Rome, condemned Jesus, but for centuries lesser lights opportunistically alleged that Christ’s death was the work of the “Jewish Lobby.” For Forsythe, George W. Bush picked up where Pilate left off, invoking the sacred name of The Rule of Law, when what he and his ilk actually hold sacred is total dominion—legal or illegal—acquired by any means available, over the real estate on which others dwell.

That’s a big bill to fill in one evening, and perhaps disappointing to those expecting something more in the middle and a little less elevated. The words that launch Part I & II, “Clouds after Cranach” are the mother’s, spoken by Amancio Gonzalez: “This is Composition I in which my son was arrested.” With those words, she renders to the modern day Caesar what she has convinced herself is evidence of an unjust arrest. Forsythe tells us later that she represents him: Confused, bereft, disarmed, alone, and speaking the only language she knows. Dancers in street clothes enter and begin a series of interactions where their bold movement is serially aborted. One or two dancers get out in front of the fray, prompting the others into molecular interpolations of aggression—like contact improv minus bruising and plus apprehension in both senses of the word. The dancers act defensively out of apprehension. They apprehend parts of themselves to arrest their own momentum. They apprehend parts of others to frustrate efforts that go too far in any one direction. I tried to assign counts of eight to each bourgeon or boil up that ended in a tableau vivant. Doing so helped me see that what had seemed random was part of a pattern where the focus keeps shifting from “arrest” by apprehension to the moral caesura of an outstretched arm pointing an accusatory finger or a dancer spiraling her own her spine in a death agony that is extreme but without unction. You can’t really appreciate the cohesion in Part I until you see and hear Part III, which supplies the missing sound. Then it’s Intermission and you’re in a state of suspended animation. You don’t feel like chatting so you take the opportunity to examine the installation of Cranach paintings in the lobby for clues. I know what you’re thinking, but no, this is so not the Da Vinci Code ballet. It is more like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys Solve the Mystery of the “Real Story Ballet,” only to have their eyes pried wide open. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…

In Part II, which precedes the intermission, the stage is set for an interrogation of the mother. What did she actually see? the cop wants to know. When he says, “Trust me,” she says, “I don’t trust myself!” We hear drilling and a motor winding in the background, and now the mother trying to be heard in words that the interrogator translates into Arabic as she speaks them in English. We live in a world of advanced communication where ironically, understanding one another is harder than ever. The mother dutifully repeats the cop’s translations as if to make them her own and at the same time affirm her version of the story. Eager to get to the facts, he chastises her for echoing him. I am thinking of the 1998 book by Leonard Schlain called “The Alphabet Versus the Goddess.” Schlain accepts that the rise of the family, private property and the state spelled doom for the matriarchal clans, but proposes that the development of the alphabet to record the rise of the patriarchy and its various tyrannies was the ultimate nail in the sarcophagus for women. Two thousand years hence, we find a male cop wielding pen and paper to record some awful misstep that will seal the mother’s fate, and her with no tools except her shell-shocked memory, riddled with false impressions that her son was arrested, and did not die from a bloody wound to his side.

In voiceover style, an interlocutor describes the Cranach painting as if he were objectively reporting the facts of a human interest story against the subjective cacophony of wartime chaos. Like the cables that intersect behind them, the axes of the mother and the cop eventually cross, as she now challenges his efforts to tell her what happened even more angrily than he earlier frustrated hers to report what didn’t. As Dr. Phil might put it, “When Mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.” Yes, but when faced with the imperatives arrogated by the Pentagon and the State Department, Dr. Phil, we’d rather be right than happy; moreover, we’d rather be respected than popular with the “in” crowd. Part II ends when the mother, whose speech is electronically thinned out and then slowed to near paralysis for having lost all hope, asks “How does one say ‘nothing’?” and he gives her the Arabic word “azhoydeh,” which she repeats as if to finally cop to the only interpretation that can negotiate “peace” at the cost of justice. Nothing. Azhoydeh.

“Study III” places us outside what in the lower tech days of U.S. warfare might have been a Quonset Hut, but in today’s “intel” era is a port-a-classroom plywood wall, where two empty chairs afford a place where you can sit and wait forever before discovering what goes on inside. As the chorus of dancers reprises Part I, this time to glottal and sibilant human sounds rendered curiously terrifying by a special microphone program, a dancer delivers a discursive explanation of cloud movement (there are dark death clouds in the Cranach painting, but the clouds he points to on his illustration are as white as the word “whitewash”). It is tempting to think that the complex of movement he is describing is Forsythe’s process of creating work on the dancers. His studied coherence is disturbingly dissonant in the context of what occurs elsewhere onstage: dancers throwing themselves against the plywood port-a-classroom, careening into each other to the human sounds programmed to replicate missiles headed toward their targets.

Dana Caspersen, who wrote the script and is female, suddenly begins to lip sync a male voice attempting to justify the policy responsible for the mother’s shock and awe. In an exaggerated reaction formation, Caspersen’s character assumes the persona of an on-the-ground point man whose Texas twang conjures up a clownish George W. Bush, the political figure many complacently hold wholly responsible for the so-called mistake in Iraq. For me, this is the weakest element in an otherwise on-target effort. The voice of U.S. imperialism can no more be caricatured with a Texas accent than the voice of fascism can be caricatured with a German one. The catastrophe in Iraq is not the result of, nor can it be dismissed as the unhappy bumbling coincidence of awkward manners and malapropisms. The real voice (and diction) of U.S. imperialism has articulated a centuries-long military campaign including not only Iraq, but Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, China, North Korea, Cuba, Grenada, Iran, Panama, Libya, Palestine, Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, long before George W. Bush took office. It has for the most part delivered its imperatives in an Eastern Standard Exeter-cultivated drawl, fully present in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s intonation “I hate war.” He delivered his fireside chats even as he closed U.S. borders to European Jews needing refuge from German and Polish concentration camps. He continued “chatting” as he sent a draft army into World War II ostensibly to fight fascism, where Soviet troops did the heavy lifting, and U.S. spoils included real estate on which military bases were built that ringed the entire world. To lampoon Bush’s verbal ineptitude is to avert one’s eyes exactly as the mother does in the face of real danger and death.

When Caspersen transitioned from the Bush persona to a macabre kind of Dr. Seuss-for-grownups, she summed up the whole catastrophe with the words, “Ma’am, I came all the way over here from all the way over there,” because “somebody’s got to be in control of the truth and it might as well be us.” She then redundantly instructs the torpid mother to “just lie down, just lie down.” In “Three Atmospheric Studies,” Forsythe seems to be sounding an urgent call to his audiences to “Just stand up.”

Just go see it and just stand up.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 25, 2007 5:51 am 
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Quote:
whose Texas twang conjures up a clownish George W. Bush


I would just like to point out that George W. Bush was born in Connecticut.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 25, 2007 7:49 am 
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Exactly my point, Salzberg. One can acquire a Texas twang, even if one is a Connecticut Yankee in King Enron's Court.

I myself was born and raised in the Bronx, but the High School of Performing Arts worked me over real good, and I don't have a Bronx accent any more. There may be a few other clues to whence I came, but my accent isn't one of 'em.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 26, 2007 5:59 pm 
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My mother-in-law is also from the Bronx, but you'd never know by listening to her. Too many years working in the international science communities I suppose.

I talked to a friend who saw the performance. She loved. Thought it was an interesting audience, the who's who of the Bay Area dance world. Anyway, she also said she'd classify the evening's work as "dance theater" and was a bit mystified by the "whale talking".

Can anyone explain the whale talking to me?


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