Prepare to Get Physical
May 14, 2019
by Kathleen Smith

The Boston Globe recently hailed choreographer William Forsythe as “one of the most visionary and influential choreographers on the planet.” This June, the National Ballet will present three of his most acclaimed works together in Physical Thinking to showcase his vigorously athletic, innovative and signature style that continually pushes boundaries.

Below, dance writer Kathleen Smith breaks down the programme that will feature the company premiere of The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude and Approximate Sonata 2016 with the return of audience favourite The Second Detail.

In all three works Forsythe combines an enthusiasm for legacy elements such as pointe work with radical phrasing and pace, torqued shapes and an absence of the gender specificities of many ballets, both traditional and contemporary. In all of this, he’s been a choreographer ahead of the curve.

The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude
The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude is set to Schubert’s Symphony No. 9. Forsythe’s choreography is a fittingly precise counterpart to the score with winking references to the classical ballet canon but the speed and attack required of dancers to pull it off makes it a work of the moment.

Approximate Sonota 2016
Approximate Sonata 2016 wraps precision in a laissez faire attitude. It’s a deceptively casual series of linked duets, with movement that rapidly accumulates and layers like a multi-exposure photograph. Working with Thom Willems, Forsythe asks dancers to skim through unpredictable technical challenges as the music morphs in mood and tempo.

The Second Detail
The Second Detail was created on the National Ballet in 1991 at the height of his influence. It is simultaneously playful and rigorous, set to an aggressively percussive score by Thom Willems. Here, the neo-classical symmetry of ensemble formations is continually challenged and disrupted as Forsythe plays with tempo, group dynamics and off-axis lines executed at speed.

Physical Thinking is onstage June 1 – 8, 2019.


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