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Flash Report, 7-13: Frankfurt Farewell
One Great Dance Company, (hopefully to be) Reproduced

By Laurie Uprichard
Copyright 2004 Laurie Uprichard

PARIS -- One could truly say that tout le monde, everyone, was there. Saturday, July 3, 2004, the final performance of Ballett Frankfurt, at Theatre National de Chaillot. The Eiffel Tower fills the window in the main lobby of the theater. It looks huge, imposing, and so close you could touch it, the way mountains in the Rockies appear yards rather than miles away. And at 11 p.m., after the show, the golden lights joyously blink, emblazoning the celebration of this grand finale.

Who was there? Jennifer Binford (former Graham dancer and extraordinary Graham interpreter in Richard Move's Martha @ shows) was on her honeymoon! Senta Driver came to see this repertory; "I have no idea which rep. will remain with the new company." (The Forsythe Company, which launches in January in Frankfurt and Dresden, will be made up of 18 dancers, including 16 from the current company of 32, according to Forsythe.) British choreographer Wayne McGregor and Sadler's Wells programmer Alistair Spalding. Irish choreographer and company director John Scott. Paris resident and ex-New Yorker, choreographer Jennifer Lacey. Swedish choreographer Kenneth Kvarnstrom, etcetera, etcetera. The average age was young -- maybe 30. Japanese and English were spoken as much as French. (In fact, an announcement over the house system that the program order had changed was made in English... only in English.)

The program includes three of the four pieces seen at BAM's Next Wave festival last fall (and reviewed here by Gus Solomons jr) -- "The Room As It Was," "(N.N.N.N.)," and "One Flat Thing, Reproduced." In lieu of "Duo," shown on the BAM program, we see "Ricercar," a quartet set to David Morrow's piano variations on Bach's Ricercar de 6.

The company looks magnificent and seems to be giving its all. The breathing that Gus referenced that keeps them in sync could have been emanating from the players at Wimbledon. I longed to read the rules handbook for the games the four men play in "(N.N.N.N.)."

"Ricercar" is an edgy, uncomfortable work. The music isn't pleasant. Midway through, Christopher Roman has a solo in which he shakes spastically, distortedly, seems suddenly crippled, and retreats upstage where he passes this affliction on to Allison Brown and Fabrice Mazliah, who have been casually sitting on the stage watching him. They scooch down the diagonal from upstage left to downstage right with hunched shoulders. Nothing is resolved. At the curtain call, a dancer stands in the wings taking flash photos of the cast.

"One Flat Thing, Reproduced" is, as Gus called it, the big finale. The 20 tables are cacophonously yet precisely pulled into place. The cast's running between and over them is stunning for both its chaos and its precision. Richard Siegal's shoot through vaults onto a table with perfectly pointed toes would garner a 10 in Athens. Antony Rizzi seems to be everywhere at once -- mid-stage pinning someone onto a table, downstage under another one; his brief solo shimmers. The energy, multiplied by Thom Willems's score, is palpable.

Then, the final curtain call. The cast bows, four or five times as they have after each piece, to enthusiastic applause. Thom and Bill come out to a rousing standing ovation. Former company members begin to come down from their seats, throw flowers on the stage, take photos, then join the cast. Stephen Galloway gets a mike and starts announcing everyone's name as they step up. Antony Rizzi runs to the front of the stage, greeting, hugging, and pulling them into the group. There must be 70 people onstage. (Forsythe, quoted in Alan Riding's New York Times article of July 5, noted that 130 dancers had come through the company over its 20-year history.) Finally, Bill slices his finger across his throat, signaling "enough," and the curtain falls. Applause roars from behind the curtain.

After the show, everyone who's invited to the party (500, I heard), plus many who don't have official invitations but have been told to hang out (probably another 500), wait to be let in, chatting happily and watching the Eiffel Tower blink. Although there are a few tears, the mood is generally cheerful. The knowledge that there will be a new beginning with a new company, despite its reduced size, keeps much of the sadness at bay.

Laurie Uprichard is the executive director of Danspace Project.

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