Revisiting an Era: William Forsythe's Balletic Creations ; Lyon Company Presents American Choreographer's Later Works in Paris

By Sulcas, Roslyn | International New York Times, November 28, 2014 | Go to article overview

Revisiting an Era: William Forsythe's Balletic Creations ; Lyon Company Presents American Choreographer's Later Works in Paris


Sulcas, Roslyn, International New York Times


Lyon Opera Ballet presents the American choreographer's later works in a triple bill that included a work by Benjamin Millepied in Paris.

Paris has been an important city for William Forsythe. It was here, in 1987, that his "In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated" had its premiere at the Paris Opera Ballet, winning him international recognition. In 1990, his own company, the Frankfurt Ballet, began an eight-year residence at the Theatre du Chatelet, performing there for several weeks every year. During that time, faithful fans could see almost all the new work that Mr. Forsythe produced, and track the evolution of his artistry.

It is no wonder that the Parisian public has an enormous appetite for Mr. Forsythe's dances, evident throughout the Festival d'Automne's multicompany focus on the choreographer, which began in September and runs through mid-January. On Wednesday, three hours before the Lyon Opera Ballet gave its last performance here of a triple bill featuring works by Mr. Forsythe and Benjamin Millepied, there were already people holding signs outside the Theatre de la Ville. "1 ticket, 2 tickets, 3 tickets," one placard suggested hopefully.

The Lyon company, which tours extensively, has also been important in showing Mr. Forsythe's work. Since the mid-1980s, its director, Yorgos Loukos, has steadily acquired Forsythe pieces, including the full-length 1990 "Limb's Theorem," performed earlier in the Festival d'Automne lineup. The works on the triple bill here came from a later period in Mr. Forsythe's oeuvre: "workwithinwork," (1998) set to a selection of Luciano Berio's "Duets for two violins," and "One Flat Thing, Reproduced" (2000) to an electronic score by Thom Willems.

These pieces mark the closing of an era for Mr. Forsythe. Although he would create a few more overtly balletic works (including "Woundwork" and "Pas/Parts" for the Paris Opera in 1999) in the next year or two, "workwithinwork" is -- at least to date -- one of the last of his creations to take ballet technique and conventions as its subject matter.

The piece is spare and exacting, a physical response to the complex, spiky rhythms, mosquito-buzz speed, and atonal melodies of Berio's music. Fifteen dancers, dressed in jewel-toned sleeveless tops and black briefs, appear in fluid, ever-changing configurations. Short solos, pas de deux and ensemble groupings appear and disappear; dancers melt into and out of the darkness and door-like openings at the back of the stage. As in Balanchine's "Agon" or "Episodes," the movement is an extended exploration of the shapes and geometries human bodies can create together in a formal context.

Mr. Forsythe disregards many of ballet's usual conventions. Movement can be initiated from any part of the body; bodies bend and buckle and curve; the range of motion is both enormously expansive and petit-point detailed. …

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