Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Carte Postale: Forsythe

Does one ever forget their first time seeing a Forsythe piece? Hubbard Street Dance presented Enemy in the Figure last weekend at Zellerbach Hall as part of a mixed program, and Forsythe's work was definitely the most riveting spectacle of the evening. Two words: lighting design. One word: genius. The dancers controlled (moved, angled, directed) a small but fierce onstage spotlight, and its stark brightness--sometimes wandering and allowing our attention to scan the stage; sometimes glaring at a dancer so emphatically that our gaze, too, became fixed; and sometimes casting a shadow even more important than the dance itself--played in counterpoint to the usual theatrical lights, particularly the dim (what I would call "normal room") lighting often used farther upstage. The lights became a character in and of themselves, providing a complex dimension to the already frenzied kitchen sink of movement and antics conveyed by the dancers.

I have a friend who dislikes Forsythe's work. He says, "you never know what the hell is going on." This is true! Deliciously true! I may not know what the hell is going on but at the same time, I feel like I recognize motifs of movement and dancer interaction. I make my own sense of the use of a prop: watching the dancers send a current through a rope on the floor, for example, reminded me of children at play, though in this context their play seemed sinister and threatening. One has to like taking these sorts of mental detours--of thinking you know, not knowing, and making your own "know"--or else the work may indeed seem incomprehensible, impenetrable. I, for one, can not wait til Forsythe returns to Cal Performances next year.


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