“Forsythe’s Box” in PAJ

Bill Viola, Emergence, 2002, on exhibition November 27, 2007– August 24, 2008 at J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, Los Angeles, CA.

Cover Image: Bill Viola, Emergence, 2002, on exhibition November 27, 2007– August 24, 2008 at J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, Los Angeles, CA.

An article of mine on William Forsythe, “Forsythe’s Box: On the Afterlife of Choreography” has just appeared in this month’s issue of PAJ (91: 1, Winter 2009).  Hardly an unknown figure, Forsythe is widely recognized as one of the most prominent choreographers in the world.  His virtuosic, algebraically complex ballets are frequently performed by traditional ballet companies and are equally lauded by proponents of experimental performance, whose highest, necessarily quixotic honor perhaps consisted in his juxtaposition to Grotowski as an object of anti-mythological ire in The Wooster Group’s 2004 “Poor Theater.” (Should you be unfamiliar with this remarkable performance, David Savran’s “The Death of the Avantgarde” in the Fall 2005 issue of TDR provides a well-written, indispensable overview.)

However, beginning with his highly “theatrical” piece “Kammer/Kammer” in 2000 and accelerated by the city’s 2004 dissolution of the Ballett Frankfurt, Forsythe’s choreographic language has starkly shifted away from ballet in a series of singular performances.  Many of these new works have not yet been performed in the United States, and as a result, English language reception for an artist of Forsythe’s sophistication and stature has been notably lacking during this crucial transitional period of his career.   Although the initial impulse of “Forsythe’s Box” lay in the force of my encounter with the 2007 premier of “Yes We Can’t”,  I have sought to address the void in his post-balletic reception by tracing changes initialized in “Kammer/Kammer” through two further works, “Decreation” (2004) and “Heterotopia” (2006).  I am delighted that the essay has found a home amid writing whose subject addresses “Art and the Spiritual,” including the songs of Meredith Monk– not to mention Bill Viola, who currently has an exhibition at Haunch of Venison in Berlin—  which is precisely the sort of improbably pacific artistic constellation in which I would have wished to situate Forsythe’s turbulent, provocative work.

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