In his latest work, contemporary choreographer William Forsythe tries to create, in his own words, a “short-term literacy” in his audience. The piece begins without music in order to isolate the individual phrases of movement: “it might be perceived that there has been a subtraction, which would be music. But in fact, dancers being the musical engines behind any dance, their breathing alone causes you to understand the phrase.” The intention is to create a more skilled viewer who is focused on the movements that make up the dance without the distraction of the music. When music and movement come together in a more traditional way in the second act, the audience is, or so is the idea, more literate in what is presented to them: “suddenly, you are able to read.”
It’s rare to read an account of the process of learning about a new artform or medium from the beginning. Maybe because, at least for me, it’s hard to remember the first time I read a poem or a novel or saw a painting or heard a piece of music. Or maybe because that experience merges uncomfortably with a non-critical stance of “appreciation,” a word that doesn’t deserve some of the pejorative associations attached to it.
In January 1940, amid the confusion of wartime London, the Sadler’s Wells Ballet opened its somewhat cautious season with a premiere of Frederick Ashton’s new work Dante Sonata. Conceived after the September 1939 declaration of war, the ballet is Ashton’s response to the developing events of the Second World War.
It is perhaps only the advent of animal studies in the last decade that allows us to return to the often-cited comment above and link it in a serious intellectual manner with Isadora Duncan’s own understanding of her dancing and of the dancing body as she was helping to shape and articulate it in modernism. While recent work on Duncan emphasizes her interest in the machine, her
Finally appearing in English translation twenty years after its first appearance in German, Gabriele Brandstetter’s Poetics of Dance: Body, Image, and Space in the Historical Avant-Gardes retains its groundbreaking force.