writers on dancing

The DanceView Times, Washington, D.C. edition

End Game

The Room as it Was, Duo, (N.N.N.N.), and One Flat Thing, Reproduced
Ballett Frankfurt
Opera House
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Washington, D.C.
June 17, 2004

by Clare Croft
copyright 2004 by Clare Croft
published June 21, 2004

The name William Forsythe has been bandied about for good and for bad within ballet and modern circles in the U.S. and in Europe for over a decade now, but Washington audiences got their first ever glimpse of his Ballet Frankfurt just this week. Unfortunately, we were looking at a company—best described as contemporary dance with an improvisational edge—in its last days; this weekend's run will be the last U.S. engagement for the group. In August, Ballet Frankfurt will close, but hopefully Forsythe will continue to create stark, intricate work like the minimalist fare presented Thursday at the Kennedy Center.

Forsythe, in a post-performance discussion, said he planned the program of The Room as it Was, Duo, (N.N.N.N.), and One Flat Thing, Reproduced, especially for the company’s U.S. tour, which ended in Washington. (The company will perform for the last time ever in Paris at the end of June.) All four of the works, though different in tone, featured little, if any, music; sets of only black and white scrims; and bare, almost harsh, fluorescent lighting. In all but Duo, dancers wore rehearsal clothes, the men in running pants and tank tops, the women primarily in leotards and biker shorts. Each dance was amazing in itself, but the four collected on one program provided a sort of cerebral droning.

One Flat Thing, Reproduced employed the most theatrical sensitivity of the evening, beginning with seventeen dancers dragging twenty metal tables downstage. The grid-like placement of the tables and the repetition of right angles added to the stage’s industrial feel (a common Forsythe atmosphere). Dancers slid across and danced on, underneath, and between the tables, with an aggressively, almost violently, reminiscent of Forsythe’s 1996 Enemy in the Figure. The tables created an overarching architecture for the dance, splitting dancers at the waist and making two distinct spaces, one above and one below the tables. Forsythe sometimes invites moments of anxiety, here, it came for me, viewing the piece from orchestra level, every time dancers slipped between the tables, because, though I knew spaces existed between each table, the surface appeared flat, as though a dancer might impale him or herself.

Awe of the female form at its most elemental clearly drives Forsythe in Duo, a duet for two women who represent the hands of a clock and the passage of time. The most compelling aspect of Duo comes in the juxtaposition of classical, long lines, and slightly contorted, twisted lines. Both are equally beautiful. The two women often danced in unison, long legs and arms stretched into classical tendus and developpes, but they were just as lovely lying down, stomachs flat against the floor, legs turned so that one lay flat, the other twisted over it. Even in the awkward position, Forsythe’s attention to the details possible in each muscle makes this moment just as striking as all the others. I found myself drawn to the anatomical beauty inherent in the body itself—the way each woman’s hamstring streams from her pelvis. By limiting the dancers to a relatively narrow strip at the front of the stage, Duo became incredibly intimate. Dancers Jill Johnson and Natalie Thomas move with a fluidity and innate sense of each other that allows them to quietly sparkle.

(N.N.N.N) followed Duo, switching from an examination of the female form to the male form, but only their arms. Four men, somewhat comedically, danced athletically complicated movement, always initiated by one of their arms. They began by patting themselves, then each other, linking as four, then in pairs. (Every time all four linked up, I kept expecting a parody of Swan Lake Cygnets.) Initially the most entertaining work of the evening, (N.N.N.N.), accompanied only by the men’s amplified breath, grew long. The man behind me to quipped, “One thing about using actual music with dance, at least it gives you a sense of when the piece might end.”

Beginning a performance before the performance, The Room as it Was ends with increasingly coherent duets, then ends as the curtain rises behind the dancers, music begins, and amber lights come up. The dance is done, but the performance has just begun.

Before the “beginning,” dancers wind their way through the front stage space as though captured in a series of skinny, intricate tunnels.

originally published:
Volume 2, Number 23
June 21, 2004

© 2004 Clare Croft



DanceView Times

What's On This Week
Index of Reviews
Index of Writers

Back Issues
About Us

Sister Sites:
Ballet Alert! Online
Ballet Talk
Ballet Blogs



Clare Croft
George Jackson
Jean Battey Lewis
Sali Ann Kriegsman
Tehreema Mitha

Alexandra Tomalonis (Editor)
Lisa Traiger


This site is the online supplement to DanceView, a quarterly review of dance published since 1979.

DanceView is available by subscription ONLY. Don't miss it. It's a good read.  Black and white, 48 pages, no ads. Subscribe today!


Copyright ©2004 by by DanceView
last updated on April 19, 2004