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  •  REVIEW: BALLETT FRANKFURT

    The Room As It Was in Ballett Frankfurt
    The Room As It Was

    Very good at using it

    Ballett Frankfurt brings its procedural queries and astoundingly capable set of bodies to BAM.

    By KARINNE KEITHLEY
    Offoffoff.com

    Ballett Frankfurt came to The Brooklyn Academy of Music last week for what is likely its final New York concert with a program deeply inscrutable and heady. The four works, "The Room As It Was," "Duo," "N.N.N.N." and "One Flat Thing, reproduced," showcased without grandeur or urgency the kind of hypertextual Heideggarian universe that artistic director William Forsythe and his company have developed. Codes, processes, translations and deployment — they had the collective hum of a human super computer.

      
    BALLETT FRANKFURT
    Choreography by: William Forsythe.
    Dancers: Cyril Baldy, Allison Brown, Francesca Caroti, Dana Casperson, Jodie Gates, Amancio Gonzalez, Ayman Harper, Demond Hart, Jill Johnson, Brock Labrenz, Prue Lang, Vanessa Le Mat, Jone San Martin, Stephen Galloway, Fabrice Mazliah, Amy Raymond, Georg Reischl, Antony Rizzi, Christopher Roman, Richard Siegal, Ander Zabala,.
    Music by: Thom Willems.

    Related links: Official site
    My first engagement in watching each piece is an effort to decode. What goes on in their minds? The dances are clearly improvised to some extent, either in their origin or in performance- sometimes it is hard to tell. Response figures heavily- performers responding to each others' cues alter the course of many of the dances. The material we see comes from a pre-ordered set of movement sequences and translation parameters. Though self-possessed and individual, their responses don't offer up idiosyncrasy, personality, nervous system quirks, Rather, they're working on the task at hand. Solving for Z when X=N.

    This produces something intensely stimulating for anyone interested in compositional possibilities. It's hard not to engage in this decoding, to attempt to glean strategies, tips for breaking open ones own endeavors. But what happens if you don't decode? You find yourself observing a set of inscrutable, humming things of particular dimensions, particular speeds. "Inscrutable Humming Thing" is actually my current favored description of a certain kind of dance. These are IHTs par excellance. I think its in the hum that the beauty lies.

    Duo in Ballett Frankfurt  
    Duo
      
    The great benefit of the opera house context (usually in the US there would be only dance practitioners forming the audience for dance this deeply engaged in compositional queries and process) is that the majority of the audience isn't handicapped with the ability (if not the instinct) to decode — at least not back to the original terms of material, not being equipped with anatomical expertise or a technicians acute perception of movement. What gets seen, through these outside eyes, is at least a few steps removed from the origins. Translated.

    The work is not particularly performative in the traditional sense. I get the impression that it would be fulfilled in a room by itself, with no need of the audience. In this context, the tree falling in the middle of the forest has most definitely made a sound. Here the proof of existence is not the provenance of the observer.

      
      Here the proof of existence is not the provenance of the observer.
      
    But if Forsythe is engaged conceptually in translations, then the translation to audience, that great passing hermeneutical enterprise of performance, is surely of interest. He must have a Buddhist-like unattachment to the conclusions drawn. This is not a guided communication. It demands nothing of me. But also it demands everything of me. If I'm to take anything away from this event, it is up to me to delineate that experience.

    My experience, thus stripped of analysis, was a white-space high-speed hum. A combination of watching fast new trains, dogs wrestling, time-elapse puzzle game solving, staring at a soft-white box with an incandescent light, listening to tongue twisters or maybe an Oulipo sonnet, elaborate domino toppling and some more white box.

    More concrete, here are some of the things I saw:

    "The Room As It Was." Begins with amazing softness. Quiet feet. Slowly we begin to hear their breath, which is both a score and an internal cueing system. The movement is so intricate that it's hard to track. Every possibility of the jointed body is exploited. They play with bringing parts of a remembered choreography to the room as it is now. It is between them. At the end, a curtain which contains their dancing area raises up. Suddenly there is space, not just memory.

    One Flat Thing, reproduced in Ballett Frankfurt  
    One Flat Thing, reproduced
      
    "Duo." A fugue. Oblique program notes refer to the two women as a clock. Apparently they have been thinking about time. They execute more incredible material. This dance has a rhythm of image return, stopping, frontality, illustration plates. There is music, there are costumes (the rest of the evening is performed in spruced-up rehearsal clothes), but these theatrical elements aren't allowed to provide a dreamy distance. The light is fluorescent. Again the space is limited to the extreme downstage. The music is mixed to sound as if it is coming from offstage somewhere. If you are to be seduced into this dance, enveloped by it, it will come only from your attention to the activities of the two extraordinary dancers.

    "N.N.N.N." Four men. An evolving intricacy. Little urgency, casual virtuosity. Secret kung-fu timing.

    "One Flat Thing, reproduced." The piece begins and the performers drag a stage full of tables out. They proceed to use the surfaces and corridors thus created as a high speed playground. They play off of each other. They cue each other visually. Things are attacked. Thom Willems, the composer, makes an electronic gale. Possibilities are multiplied by the extra horizontal solid plane at hip-level. They're very good at using it.

    OCTOBER 7, 2003
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK


    Reader comments on Ballett Frankfurt:

  • Jodie Gates   from Lycinda Masterson, Mar 22, 2005
  • In search of Steven Galloway   from Michelle Bennett, Sep 23, 2008

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