Forsythe, William

Forsythe, William
▪ 2006
 In 2005 a new ballet ensemble, the Forsythe Company, made its debut in Frankfurt am Main, Ger. Led by William Forsythe, an internationally renowned choreographer of audaciously groundbreaking contemporary dance works, the company—with bases in both Frankfurt and Dresden and supported by both state and private funding—immediately garnered rave reviews. The company's debut featured the premiere of a new Forsythe work, Three Atmospheric Studies, that typified Forsythe's creations, incorporating both abstraction and theatricality.

      Forsythe was born on Dec. 30, 1949, in New York City. Although he performed in musicals when he was in high school, he did not begin formal dance training until he was a drama student at Jacksonville (Fla.) University. He began studying at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York in 1969 and from 1971 to 1973 danced with Joffrey Ballet II, often appearing in the parent company's productions. Forsythe moved to Germany in 1973 to dance with the Stuttgart Ballet, and in 1976 he choreographed his first piece, Urlicht. He became the Stuttgart's resident choreographer in 1978 and that same year created his first piece for the the company, Traum des Galilei. With his first full-length ballet, Orpheus (1979), he began to move beyond traditional classical ballet and present his own dynamic and unconventional vision. Forsythe left the company in 1980 to freelance and created works for companies that included the Munich State Opera Ballet, Netherlands Dance Theatre, the Frankfurt Ballet, and the Paris Opéra Ballet.

      In 1984 Forsythe became director of the government-sponsored Frankfurt Ballet. He continued to develop his own concepts for his dances, using spoken word, video projections, and electronic sounds and devising an extreme physical vocabulary. In works that included In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated (1987) and Herman Schmerman (1992), he dazzled—and often confused—his audiences. Numerous companies worldwide inserted his works into their repertoires. In 2002, however, the city's government began to consider removing its support in order to cut costs and to favour a more conventional dance company. The public protested, but Forsythe decided to go his own way, and in 2004 the Frankfurt Ballet gave its last performance. Forsythe's new company was about half the Frankfurt Ballet's size, but nearly all of his dancers were from that company, and he was set to continue carrying his vision to his audiences.

Barbara Whitney

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Universalium. 2010.

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