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Forsythe Company Double Bill - N.N.N.N and Study #3

Published Wednesday 19 June 2013 at 14:59 by Neil Norman

Widely regarded as the most adventurous pioneer in the landscape of classical/contemporary dance fusion, William Forsythe applies the rigorous discipline of the former to explore the latter. His forensic experiments in spatial awareness walk hand-in-hand with an endless inquiry into the aesthetics of sound.

A scene from Study 3 by The Forsythe Company at Sadler's Wells, London

A scene from Study 3 by The Forsythe Company at Sadler's Wells, London Photo: Tristram Kenton

Study #3 is a collation of 30 years of his work with Ballet Frankfurt (1984-2004) and The Forsythe Company (2005 - the present). Cherry-picking from his past, he has somehow managed to distil the essence of his choreographic journey into a work that is less a Best Of compilation and more a coherent whole.

On a completely bare stage with minimal props - a pair of microphones, a glass bell-like speaker - the company explodes onto the stage in a brief, riotous burst of colour and movement before settling into a series of ensembles, duets, pas de deux and solos that shift from the playful (four couples knotted together and gradually unravelling) to the sinister (a creepy Japanese sequence that brings to mind Onibaba and Woman of the Dunes). Individual dancers take it in turns to intone or articulate largely unintelligible words into the microphone while the company attempts to interpret them. At times, it appears utterly random but closer inspection reveals a blueprint on which the dancers interpolate their own specific gestures while the lineaments of classical ballet peep through.

Some sequences are more potent than others; the occasional lapse into The Ministry of Silly Walks is swept aside by a mesmerising, mime-like solo from a girl in a burgundy leather jacket and the sonic humour of a female monologue delivered in a Donald Duck-meets-Gollum sqwawk.

The 20 minute-opener, N.N.N.N, is a witty four-hander in which a quartet of men parlay the centrifugal momentum of flinging arms into an elaborate game of tag, taking in elements of all-in wrestling and Ju Jitsu en route. Accompanied solely by their own amplified exhalations, the quartet develop an intricate, energetic piece whose control, speed and precision is remarkable given the absence of musical cues.

Production information

Sadler's Wells, London, June 18-20

William Forsythe
The Forsythe Company
Cast includes:
Yoko Ando, Dana Caspersen, Frances Chiaverini, Roberta Mosca, Ildiko Toth, Cyril Baldy, Amancio Gonzalez, David Kern, Yasutake Shimaji
Running time:
1hr 35mins

Production information displayed was believed correct at time of review. Information may change over the run of the show.

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Run sheet

King's Head, Islington London
January 24-February 15 2014