In this work he makes a very clear break structurally and movement-wise between the use of the classical lexicon and the strict linear space structure that is connected to it, and that of his fragmented/disarticulated/deconstructed (however one wishes to call it) lexicon and the more complex, less obvious, space structure that accompanies it. From the start, the use of the arms are emphasised and highlighted, whether moving through classical port de bras or parallel/perpendicular lines. Unlike the strict classical lexicon, Forsythe's use of the classical arms involves the torso quite a bit more than one would normally expect. So that instead of the line of the arms terminating (visually) at the shoulder, it continues through the spine and ribcage. Similarly, as illustrated best in PART II, all leg and pas de deux movements of the body through space and time are extended far beyond the strict classical sphere of movement as seen in ballets like Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, or even Rhapsody, Monotones II, Serenade - although maybe a little closer to the adventures of Agon and possibly Four Temperaments. The body seems thus to be battling more ferociously with gravity and is seen to be expending far more energy in the process.
As far as space organisation is concerned, in PART I apart from the fact that the movement material is making reference to Swan Lake, so is his use of space - and always indirectly so, so that the "corps" are passing through but are never formations frozen into them - apart from the times when they are organised in straight lines - which he uses to stark definition that it
is difficult to see anything else. He also uses the group formations to erase the edge definitions of the space by making them stand at the extremity of the stage space and beyond. There was an especially interesting sequence at the beginning of PART I, in which the women formed 2 sets of diagonals at the sides of the stage, that were effectively going offstage and the men formed 2 straight lines in the middle-back of the stage. This
arrangement made the stage feel twice as large as it is. In PART III, the space was delineated by the use of the large rectangular polystyrene boards, which could be moved around to radically changed space just like he did with the dancers in PART II, when dropping the curtain suddenly to lift it again
on a completely new configuration of the bodies in space. In this way the stage space is never fixed, but always changing significantly according to no particular centre point.
In the classically inspired parts of the piece he greatly used canon devises to create his effects and even quite a bit of unison. The movements themselves were often repeated and movement phrases cut across each other to be taken up again shortly after; so that there was a lot of visual play in
the use of the movement material.
I very much appreciate his use of lighting and the wide variety of effects he manages to create. For example through semi-darkness, which he dares to use a lot, he manages to create a seemingly edgeless stage space by asking the audience to imaginatively take part in its creation. The use of lighting
simply the side of the stage, although used by other contemporary choreographers such as Gallota (France), is here used with razor-sharp precision and effectiveness as shot low through the legs of a line of dancers at the very edge of the left side of the stage in PART II. This device again helps to erase strict stage space delineation. I also very much
enjoy the way he manages to keep lighting the dancers' arms that are moving regularly through classical positions / or other, particularly in PART I.
Although, I didn't pay that much attention to his use of shadow effects, it does also have the ability to show the same movement differently; larger, distorted, but still retaining its essence. Hence our perception of dance is expanded in many different ways through use of lighting.
What about Forsythe's use of Music - this seems like an impossibly gigantic realm to delve into. All I can say here is that he dares to use very different types of music within the one ballet, however that he is still very much mimicking the music in that he uses the piano to render his passages through the classical rep., the Bach Chaconne for his highly
baroque structured set-up of PART II and the freak voice and mechanic sounds for the disarticulated PART III. Nonetheless it is effective.
The costumes, followed the development of the movement material and lighting, in that in the 1st and 4th parts, the women were in pale turquoise leotard and thin black tights with pointe shoes and the men in pale turquoise all in ones, accompanied by a pale greyish light. In the baroque inspired PART II, the costume was the same except that it was coloured in a rich blazing yellow/bronze, emphasised through the use of lighting. And PART III consisted of street wear, everyday wear and several of the women retained the PART I costume.
The piece was organised in 4 parts in an A1, B, C, A2 with C blending into A2 and B definitely cut from A1. A1 commenced before the audience were settled with one body crossing the stage in silence and "un-classical" movements and A2 finished in total counterbalance with the whole cast onstage, moving to very loud music, through a repeated sequence of classical arms and leg movements, in unison.
Forsythe's company dancers are an eclectic bunch both in terms of physical performance, height and proportions as well as in terms of training. This also invites the spectator to broaden his/her experience of dance and of the classical idiom, by watching it being performed through different physiques.
I thought their performance of the duets in PART II particularly aggressive and "chucky" (as I learnt to say in Australia), and altogether I thought their performance of the classically inspired parts lacking in clarity and cleanliness - but
then again the last time I saw Forsythian work being danced was by the POB.
I just want to mention that two dancers especially captured my attention - Peggy Grelat of the POB and Demond Hart.
I like the idea of introducing movement to the stage prior to the audience settling down, but found his rendition of it in Steptext (1995) far more interesting and satisfying - and definitely an area that demands deserves further investigation for future productions.
Again, with the use of stage lighting, I believe there is still much to
discover and create in developing the available palette range of colours and
in the use of contrast, as well as the use of neutral "working" stage
The creation of an edgeless space through the use of the edges of the stage
space and beyond with bodies and the lighting seems to me to have endless
realms for further development and investigation. Similarly, in the use of
dropping the curtain, which he uses with varied effects also in
ALIE/NA(C)TION (1992), this time with the curtain rising on the action
simply continuing from before, there is much to be explored.
As for the use of voice on stage, I think this is a particularly interesting
area to develop, if used intelligently, with sufficient motive and