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Flash Review, 7-8: "Workwhithinwork"
Applauding and Whistling at Forsythe

By Bettina Preuschoff, Magali Milan, Romuald Lyudlin, and Etienne Schwarcz

(Editor's note: The following was written by Preuschoff, with the reporting and writing contributions of Milan, Lyudlin, and Schwarcz.)

MONTPELLIER, France -- Those who know the work of William "Billy" Forsythe will know as well that the title of his "Workwithinwork," seen July 5 at the Opera Berlioz/Le Corum here, is appropriate, because Forsythe's seen his dances as "works-in-progress" for years. The Ballet Frankfurt program shown at the Montpellier Dance Festival once more emphasized the versatility of its "master," who didn't avoid the risk of certain provocations (once again). "Thank God" I would like to say, seeing it's too rarely choreographers take that risk.

The first part impressed by it's incredible sensibility and musicality (music by Luciano Berio), not mentioning the technical possibilities of the dancers. (For years I've been asking myself, HOW is it possible to use the body in this certain way.)

The second part was a duet between two women, in which the musicality of the bodies was expressed by the breathing rhythm of the performers. The musical concept (by Thom Willems) is based on a simple, inwarded piano composition, which was played backstage. This concept left enough space for the breathing rhythm of the two dancers -- two elements (music and breathing) which were sometimes splitting up and coming together again.

The third part provoked some controversy in the audience!! It began with a musical collage which repeated again and again after a short break... "nerve-wracking." The audience delightedly cheered every time it seemed to be over, some people showing their dislike by whistling.

The last part begins with four actors backstage having a discussion, as if they are having a kind of congress. The subject was the question: What does it mean to be a monster? One of them talked with a "monster's voice," and started singing in the middle of the piece, while the others continued their discussion. For 18 minutes the dancers moved, grimace-making, with sprained bodies from the background of the stage towards to the audience, in slow motion.

The last part was, in my opinion, a strongly and exactly choreographed chaos a la Forsythe. There were very exact and geometrically ordered tables on the stage, which limited the space for the dancers enormously, while they had to use every possible tiniest, smallest space, which meant above, beside and under the tables. This part convinced by the breathtaking power and speed of the Ballet Frankfurt dancers. The music by Thom Willems was very rhythmic, nearly industrial.

I would definitely count the performance of the Ballet Frankfurt as one of the highlights of the Festival Montpellier Danse 2000. Forsythe was already invited for the fourth time and I hope there will be many more chances to see him and his work and his amazing company here in Montpellier!

To conclude with a little personal remark: About 10 years ago I saw a performance (Forsythe's "Behind the China Dogs)" of Ballet Frankfurt in Frankfurt with my parents. In the middle of the performance my father whispered, "Hey, Bettina: You are a dancer -- I would like to understand what's happening down there; could you explain that to me?" I said he should lean back, relax and enjoy... and he did!!

Editor's Note: Bettina Preuschoff is a dancer and choreographer based in Paris. Magali Milian and Romuald Luydlin are dancers and choreographers with La Zampa. Etienne Schwarcz is a composer and musician.

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