Decreation - Focus on Forsythe

Choreography by William Forsythe
Sadler's Wells

Production photo

Decreation is creation unravelling, a restless life lived in reverse; is cacophony, the noise of a tape played backwards; is Babel, babble, psychobabble; is the ungainly lunatics taking over the asylum; is Tourette's syndrome Not a comfortable 65 minutes for Bedlam voyeurs.

Inspired by an essay by Canadian poet Anne Carson about God, love and jealousy, about the "dissolving of the self to attain ecstasy", it purports to explore the tenderness and rage that accompany grieving (in the mid 1990s Forsythe's wife died tragically prematurely of cancer aged only 32).

Eighteen dancers engage and fragment, tangle in triangular relationships, screech like wounded animals or troubled souls, contort figures and faces, and play with words. "I hate this. It's a spiel." As in spiel, 'a lengthy or extravagant speech or argument usually intended to persuade', and Spiel the German for game or play. Ah, playful irony - they are "role-playing". "This is irritating." Someone sniggers.

Inexhaustible rubber legs George Reischl spars with laconic Richard Siegal; Jone San Martin seduces with her double-jointed body and demands attention with her repertoire of eerie sounds; Amancio Gonzalez is a Magritte brought to life; and it is evident that tiny Dana Caspersen is the one in charge.

"Dialogues, characters and physical commands migrate through the dancers; a rapid, slithering switch from body to body. Sound is transformed, weeps and soars through the dancers' throats and bodies, which move in a constant, oblique tension. All communication is mediated, detoured, in a seamless flow of configuration, displacement, vacuum and vision. The piece re-forms itself continually around three questions, which tell of the progression of the soul. From three parts, to two parts, to one." Dana Caspersen's programme note foreword.

Layers upon layers, tricks, illusions, distortions, disillusions, attempts at some universal truth A camera records and projects snatches of speech, movement, bodies, faces - a delayed selected replay (cf Katie Mitchell) - on to a podium...

Dissonant sound (played on stage by David Morrow), jarring warlike noise, fingers tugging at clothes, petulant arguments about trust, flitting/fleeting emotions, all have a random impulsive improvisatory drama therapy quality with manic repetitive elements.

Tension, torsion, mayhem. The mess and ugliness of life? Shamanistic ritual? The group sacrificing/mourning the individual? The soul returning to its original state? A personal philosophical statement - we can only surmise. Slippery movements; slippery context. The eye struggles to grasp the scene, the mind to make sense of it.

A demanding evening in the company of an intriguing artist choreographer: either you can take an hour of hyperactive overload, or you are glad to be released from its hypnotic grip. There are no half measures. No choreographer pushes the boundaries of dance so much. Surrealism and performance art reveal a questing soul. Forsythe's scattergun intelligence tests the audience.

Part of a two week retrospective and celebration of William Forsythe's range of challenging unconventional works, post-modern dance pieces and video installations, dispersed about London in gallery, warehouse, clubs, and theatre foyers, some free, Decreation was the last piece Forsythe created for Ballett Frankfurt in 2003.

In the foyer his interactive video installation City of Abstracts captures its viewers' movements and with delay-relay projects them into the morphing piece, to fun David Lynchian effect. This will be travelling round London to Tate Modern in the day and the Fabric club by night.

In the Lilian Baylis Studio there are three video dance performance installations - all solos by Forsythe himself: the thirteen-minute Suspense (2008) in which he is struggling to break free of tangled black cable rope; the twelve-minute diptych Antipodes I/II (2006), in which gravity is cheated by trick photography (Bill Viola comes strongly to mind in places); and the six-minute Solo (1997), which shows off his mercurial dancing talent.

The other free installations, both UK premieres, are Scattered Crowd (composed of white balloons) at Midlands Goods Shed, Kings Cross. from 1st to 3rd May, and Additive Inverse (composed of thread and fog,) 8th to 10rh May at the South London Gallery. Times need to be checked on

"Focus on Forsythe" runs until 10th May, 2009

Reviewer: Vera Liber