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Flash Review 2, 8-2: As Tears go Rolling by
Forsythe Jerks us in All Directions

By Shena Wilson
Copyright 2001 Shena Wilson

PARIS -- If you're lucky, every once in a couple dozen blue moons, a performance sticks in your mind as singularly outstanding. Frankfurt Ballet performing choreography by William Forsythe at Palais de Chaillot June 24 lingers still. Three pieces graced the program: "Woolf Phrase," "7 to 10 Passages," and "One flat thing," all accompanied by Thom Willems's remarkable music and the longest clocking in at 28 minutes. They left me with an uneasy, enamoured feeling. Before the second intermission I knew that this experience was kind of... (how do I put this without being nauseating?) plucking at my heart and undulating my soul. Strange. Amazing. In fact, I left the seemingly plotless second piece, "7 to 10 Passages," with cool tears cascading down my cheeks. Naturally, I shared my most profound and unbearably corny sentiments about the soaring beauty of humanity and the -- place your own over-the-top/I-can't-believe-I-said-that-out-loud sentiment here -- with my ever tolerant (and oh so fortunate) Parisian companion BT, the absolute genius who booked the Forsythe tickets in the first place.

I read somewhere that Forsythe has said: What you say is not as important as how you speak with the language, or the tools you have. His is a vocabulary of classical ballet. Yes. The words we know are there, the usual grammar totally garbled, and the end message quite clear.

I won't go into the intricacies of each dance, except to tell the essence.

"Woolf Phrase": Black spaces of a plain stage adorned with just one mic are filled entirely by two strong and communicative dancers, Prue Lang and Richard Siegal. She makes seagull sounds and with free, wide voices both speak in French and English, text between movement, and with movement. Reference is made to Virginia Woolf: "It is that one summer day the waves look alike, shift, fall again, and the entire world seems to say "this is everything‰...The wave breaks; the dog barks, far off, barks, barks..." (I translate from the program.)

"7 to 10 Passages": A row of beautiful, strong, unusual people, taut graceful bodies, casually clad, faces seemingly still, arms moving at various speeds. The row advances slowly, thoughtfully, not one the same as the other, almost motionless until...bam! The dancers stand larger than life at the front of the stage, faces swirling and yet still. A tangible atmosphere of solitude, of desperation, and of complicity with the audience. This is us. We are in this too. Us. Some dancers have tears streaming down their immobile faces. Not a sound. End of piece. More breath. The tears finish. We breathe now too. (A thousand bravos.)

"One Flat Thing," reproduced: Rows of large, heavy, long tables around which the stunningly athletic and precise crew of dancers writhes, stands, lies, swings, skips, penches, presses, crawls.... Gripping movement from the first to the last. Not a one alike, not a moment without writhing. A gorgeous snake-pit of humans with huge personality.

I am seated on a "strapontin" (fold-down) at the end of the first row, stage level, ground level of the expansive Chaillot Theatre that is just a flick jete through the cheesy souvenirs at Trocadaro to the Eiffel Tower. A woman next to me remarks happily that the first two center rows are populated, visibly, by dancers of some format. I agree. She asks if I am indeed with Garnier. Surprised and all giggly, I reply that although a lovely idea, there is no way I am "with" anything at all (besides maybe the nearest night-club). She ebulliently tells me that she did the narration for a Forsythe piece with Sylvie Guillem a few years before, and was brought on stage by La Guillem to share applause. The audience duly offered their awestruck appreciation when they saw her, for this middle-aged blonde woman is a dwarf, who stands barely higher than my waist. She has a beautiful clear voice and an endearing, intelligent wonderment. Near us there is a ripple of! rumour: Pina Bausch is "in the house". What can I say? Every few blue moons, Sunday afternoons in June are charmed. Especially with the stunning Frankfurt Ballet.

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