Physical Thinking Primer
May 27, 2019
by Karen Kain

William Forsythe is one of modern ballet’s most intellectually rigorous and, at the same time, inexhaustibly watchable, choreographers. He is at heart a classicist, but he wants to explore and examine what goes into and sustains the classical vocabulary by revealing and isolating the gestures, movements and physical patterns it comprises and seeing them afresh. Often, this means taking these gestures to extremes  especially extremes of speed (notably in the footwork) and flexibility  a process that often makes great demands on the dancers performing them. There is a kind of dizzying, unsettling result in many of his works, which stems from both the attention he gives to the unconventional yet still gracefully exposed line and his willingness to play with our expectations of balance, both with regard to individual dancers and their partnering in a work. Unlike traditional notions of balletic appeal, in a Forsythe ballet it’s the beauty of uncertainty that is paramount.

All of these tendencies are plentifully evident in the three superb ballets that make up the Physical Thinking program, from the virtuosic solos and ensembles of The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude and the startling over-extensions and witty neo-classicism embodied by the four couples in Approximate Sonata 2016 to the almost Dadaistically playful mood of The Second Detail. But Forsythe’s work is always more than a deconstructivist exercise. Like all great ballet, his dances are about the joy and wonder of movement itself.

Physical Thinking is onstage June 1 – 8, 2019.


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