THE FRANKFURT BALLET.
William Forsythe's new work, Endless House, is surprising in almost every way. It begins on the vast opera house stage that has been home to the Frankfurt Ballet for most of Forsythe's tenure with the company. Then it moves (as does the audience) to the reconstructed tram depot known as the TAT (Tearer am Turm), which the choreographer recently acquired from the city as an alternative performance space. It is testament to Forsythe's theatrical genius that the mid-evening move--anticipated with irritation or curiosity by some theatergoers, unknown to others until their arrival (leaflets doubling as subway tickets were handed out at the doors)--feels not just necessary by the end of the evening, but exhilarating: a transition from the distanced experience of spectatorship to an intimate encounter with performance.
Part one, directed by Frankfurt dancer Dana Caspersen, begins with a bare, monochromatic stage, onto which Forsythe and actor Ron Thornhill emerge to the sounds of Javanese gamelan music (Sirimpi's Provisions for Death). Mirror images, halves of a tortured soul, they speak in the madly logical, agonized words of Charles Manson--a broken poetry of incomprehension and frustration that Caspersen counterpoints with tight-muscled, truncated, autistic gestures and twitches. As they offer their fragmented narrative, waves of glowing color begin to wash across the screens, rising and descending behind the men; it is a visual spectacle of such astounding opulence that it rivals, then becomes one with, the sonorous ritualized intensity of the music.
Part two, in the relaxed, in-the-round ambiance of the TAT, allows the audience to move freely around the performance area (drink in hand), or take up a place onstage (no drink). Chairs (occasionally requested by the dancers) are placed at angles; high, mobile screens alter perspective and limit access to the scenes played out simultaneously across this artfully disposed space. To an alternately hypnotic and discordant score (by Ekhart Ehlers and Thom Willems), a flamboyant, extravagant dance-drama gradually erupts, invoking (amongst other things) Wuthering Heights, The Valley of the Dolls, and Javanese mythology, weaving the dancers into complex patterns and intricate choreographic knots, then changing the focus so that the audience rushes excitedly elsewhere. The need for the rituals of invocation and exorcism suggested by the music and speech are here given life through driven, hypnotic dances that culminate in a demonic, exhilarating ensemble, then dissipate back to intimate duos--the simmering, continuous life that both precedes and survives the exorcism.
Caspersen, a choreographer in her own right, presented Work for Three, a commission from the admirable Klapstuk Festival in Leuven, Belgium. One of the Frankfurt Ballet's most notable performers, Caspersen also possesses a distinctive compositional style that is both intimate and cool. She is clearly interested in cause and effect, anatomical detail, the minutiae of the physical. In Work for Three, feet tap the floor, necks angle, hands pat hips, shoulders rotate, limbs extend as if separate from the body. Yet the dancers (Michael Schumacher, Jill Johnson, Richard Siegel, all wonderful) move against one another, sensitively, like animals, occasioning complex flurries that bring these isolated particulars into unexpected relation.
Soft voices whisper place names and dates, invoking memory and history just as the choreography suggests the euphony of physical connections, of reasons for momentum and impetus. Caspersen's ability to show the temporal through the body--a deliberate marking of the poignant arbitrariness of time and place--imprints this piece with unexpected emotional resonance.
Another Frankfurt Ballet dancer and choreographer, Jacopo Godani, created Digital Secrets (preceded by Martino Muller's R.A.M. and Forsythe's Artifact II) for an enjoyable triple bill that saw the Goteborg Ballet begin its first season under new director Anders Hellstrom. To a commissioned score by Diego Dall, Godani creates an infectiously energetic group piece that impressively marshals the dancers into playful squads, and shows off their obvious delight in the challenges posed to them. Like Forsythe, Godani likes to make people dance; here he has done so with enormous aplomb.
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|Article Type:||Dance Review|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2000|
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