Guide William Forsythe and the Practice of Choreography: It Starts From Any Point

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Physical description xii, p. Online Available online. Full view. Green Library. F66 W Unknown. More options. Find it at other libraries via WorldCat Limited preview. Contributor Spier, Steven. Bibliography Includes bibliographical references and index. Watching the Frankfurt Ballet, Roslyn Sulcas 2. Choreographic Objects William Forsythe 8.

Decreation: Fragmentation and Continuity Dana Caspersen 9. Addition and subtraction in the same perceiving movement. Then the subject emerges, not a perceiving subject, but a subjectile that culminates through the eventness of the perception's concrescence into an actualized form. Whitehead calls this subjective form. This occasion for experience takes time even as it makes time: it contributes to experience even as it continues to resonate through the virtual nexus of its emergence and completion.

Nik Hafner, a former dancer for the Frankfurt Ballet, discusses the overlapping use of metric and durational time in Forsythe's choreographic process: "In William Forsythe's pieces, we continuously find people or objects that mark time and remind us of the time-duration of their structures: watches, counters, step-makers" Hafner, What strikes Hafner is that despite the use of many instruments for quantifiable measure, Forsythe's interest seems to lie less in the measurability of time and the body's coordination to that measure than in "events that are, given their timely complexity, unreproducible" Forsythe's experimentation with the time of movement is diagrammatic.

Rather than simply treating quantified time as the organising node for choreography's expression, he urges his dancers to become flexible in different time zones. He suggests, for instance, that they create diagrams for the superimposition of different experiences of time, both measured and durational. For Forsythe's dancers, diagrams are generative propositions for the activation of folds of time at the intersection of duration and measure.

A diagrammatic approach is useful for registering the complexity of co-constitutive spacetimes of experience and expression. Dana Casperson, long-standing dancer with the Frankfurt Ballet and the Forsythe Company explains: "Bill's dancing is extremely complex and organic, and the key to understanding how to do his choreography lies in figuring out which points on his body are initiating movement and which are responding to the initiation" Casperson, These quick transitions between micromovements are like "refractions [of] light bounding between surfaces" Capturing the bounce is an event in itself.

This is where diagrams come in. We took sheets of transparent paper, drew shapes on them, and cut geometric forms into them which we folded back to create a 3D surface that could reveal surfaces underneath. We layered this on top of the book page, a flattened projection of the Laban cube, and a computer generated list of times organized into geometric shapes created by David Kern and Bill. Then we photocopied it.

We then drew simple geometric forms onto these copies and repeated the whole process until we had a layered document. We used this document first to generate movement Casperson, 28, image below p. Diagrammatic praxis works with ontogenetic prearticulations of co-existent tendencies overlapping toward the creation of new vectors.

William Forsythe and the practice of choreography: it starts from any point

Diagrammatic propositions invest in what Gilles Deleuze, following Michel Foucault, calls the "thought of the outside. The outside refers to forces "that we might understand as the roiling and threatening forces of chaos" Deleuze, The outside is the force field of potential from which actual occasions are subtracted, the more-than of the less-than of lived experience. The Frankfurt Ballet's diagrammatic propositions capture the prearticulations of these forces, flirting with their potential, activating choreographic practice toward the as yet unthought-for-experimentation.

The diagrams are not descriptive of a process to be followed. They are transductive: they call forth jumps in register, inciting new processes at each juncture - from writing to movement, from fold to flight. Folding techniques for the paper do not simply translate into folding techniques for the body.

They create potential biograms - affective openings for the transformation of a body in process.


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To do this, the diagrammatic fold itself must first take on resonance, find its experiential force within the composition at hand. Through a tight interweaving of divergent forms of process, what ensues is the individuation of a becoming-event spurred by the superimposition of paper-times and movement-folds transduced into the unfolding biogram of movement composition. A technique used by the Forsythe ballet to bring into expression the transduction of processes for making time in dance takes the form of what Hafner calls the "step-maker".

Step-makers take part in many of Forsythe's choreographies. Their role is to initiate or comment on "the changing velocity and dynamics of the piece" Hafner, Choreographic tempo is gauged by the step-maker's movement such that the piece itself becomes imbued with their rhythms, affecting the felt duration of movement-time for the rest of the dancers. Step-maker: dancing proposition for the transduction from measure to duration, from time-counting to time-texturing. Diagrammatic propositions paired with choreographic predispositions result in the creation of a complex spacetime of experience that in itself cannot be mapped.

I would push this even further, suggesting that what is emergent in the Forsythe Company's work is not a complex map of decisions but a biogrammatic cartography of incipient tendencies taking form. These are not decisions in the standard sense of being willed by the dancer. They are the eventness of tendencies concrescing in the timeslip of the new, spurred into invention by the ecology of the dance itself. Nik Hafner describes a practice session with Forsythe: Hafner is working on a jump he feels isn't working. He thinks he has the timing wrong.

Forsythe suggests that it "isn't the speed of the movement itself, but its stopping, the arrival, the reaching of the new position" that is at stake Hafner, Still, the movement continues to be missing something. Bill tries a different tact, explaining that "the end of the movement is not a real stopping", suggesting to Hafner that to execute the movement successfully, he should continue "to think the movement after the so-called Stop, that I should let the movement slowly endlessly grow" Movement never stops.

Every movement resonates with its incipient preacceleration and its potential surplus or remainder, active in a contagion of speeds and slownesses. A 'first' movement is not 'the beginning'. It is the activation of a differing velocity. Take a dynamic jump. Your preparation for the movement already carries within its posture the movement leading up to it and the immanent complexity of all the potential movement articulations activating your corpuscular universe.

Most of these tendencies will fall away when you jump - the specificity of the movement at hand requires that only jump-derivative configurations of proprioceptive, muscular and thought processes be active. These jump-specific preaccelerations will incite the materialization of a fusing-together of jump potential before you actually leave the ground: you will already experience an inclination to move - a virtual interval on the verge of actualization - that sets the stage for the displacement to take place.

This landing site is less a point in space than what Deleuze calls a 'decisive turn' Deleuze, You are jumping not toward an actual site. You are preaccelerating into an evolution of site that immanently alters the very quality of taking off. The jump is less a jump-as-such than a dynamic coexperiencing of varying velocities in preacceleration and extension. To jump successfully is to jump-through the singularity of jumping experience. It is to invite the thinking-feeling Forsythe emphasizes - the thought of the movement endlessly growing after it ends - into the movement even before the displacement through space has taken form.

To jump well is to move-through velocities too quick to know. It is to move-with the durational process of the time of movement as event. The jump-as-such - displacement through space - never represents the totality of our experience. We live the jump-event. From incipient movement to incipient movement with the experience of velocity in between, the jump cannot be felt in-time. To feel time is not only about timing. Timing is an organizational factor of any choreography, and especially of the relation between choreography and stagecraft.

But there is much beyond timing that exploits the rhythms active in the transitions between micromovements in the making and movement taking form. In an attempt to accentuate the microeventness of movement-time, Forsythe sounds the movement:. Forsythe sings the rhythm of movement taking form, making experiential the folds of what cannot be perceived as such. These folds of micromovements are virtual contributions on the verge of actual movement. No actual taking-form of movement could occur without an infinity of micromovements active in the preacceleration and the deployment of a singular movement's form-taking.

Micromovements are akin to the unsustainable in time - impossible to grasp and maintain - yet absolutely key to how movement resolves itself as a taking-form. When he sings movement, what Forsythe is sounding is not a body dancing a particular movement, but the speed of lived folding.

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Folding-through is what moves the sounding. Movement-time is the event cluster of a gathering into experience of the time-slip of measurable time and the durational experience of micromoving. Each movement is a line of flight caught in the between of imperceptible micromovements and actual movement taking form. How a movement develops depends on the how of its micromovements' ingressions into the taking form of the time of the event. Micromovements make all the difference.

Take a line: elbow-shoulder. This line could be drawn as a vector, or could be a curve inflected toward an inclination. Experimenting with it is to discover not only different opportunities for lines and curves and angles, but to sense the almost-perceptible microperceptions of difference in kind. But, on the other hand, we push each line beyond the turn, to the point where it goes beyond our own experience… Deleuze, When we move beyond our own experience, when we sound out the in-between, we are treading into the unsustainable arena of microperception.

We can get lost here. If we do, no singularity of movement will result. The singularity of movement resides not in the actualization of a movement's micromovements as such but in the manner in which micromovements contribute to the movement's taking form. The decisive turn through which a constellation of micromovements congeal into a singularity might come when the line elbow-shoulder takes on velocity and we feel a newness of experience through the contrast of habit and difference.

When our body is no longer a containor for movement but a force for the transduction of movement. To experiment with this beyond of experience where movement singularities are emergent is to invent-with a becoming-body. The decisive turn of the extension beyond experience is the point of inflexion where line becomes curve and proposition becomes movement. As an audience, we also experience movement's contrast more than its taking-form. When the dancer raises her arm, we see not the raising but the having-been raised, and even then, if it was quick, we are not quite sure: was it really an arm raised or was it a jump?

We feel the resonance of the microexpressions of movement in the creation of difference. This experience of contrast is felt through the perception of how the echo of a remainder that is the incipience of the movement passing wells into the singularity of the next event. At dancing's best, this verging on the new is felt intensively, transforming a series of steps into an ecology of experience. If captivated, we become participants in event-time. Living in time means living through memory. Memory, for Henri Bergson, is not something stored and subsequently recollected.

It is the activation of the past in the present. Memory gives a body duration, creating a platform for a body to become an ecology of a multitude of durational times interwoven. Memory and perception are of a different order yet inextricably linked, "always interpenetrat[ing] each other, […] always exchanging something of their substance as by a process of endosmosis" Bergson, When a dancer moves, the movement is implicit in her perception of it, which is itself part-memory. When we watch a dancer move, the movement perceived is already the memory of the previous movement coursing through it.

Each movement is alive with a memory that activates the becoming-body. The memory is a force of activation and stabilization ensconced in the presentness of discovering the feeling of movement again for the first time. Take the walk. When we walk, each step is already virtually imbued with all previous walkings, all previous proprioceptive tendings and kinesthetic sensings. This virtual plenitude of experience and experimentation assures a metastability of balance, a sensual memory of how the ground touches the foot and the weight shifts as the body transfers from step to step.

The memory of having-walked is not an activated memory per se: we are rarely thinking about walking while we walk. It is a memory on the edge of perception, sustaining the movement within its infinite range of potential metastabilities. This is a passive memory [18] active in the folds of the nowness of perception, its time-signature specious. The passive memory of the metastabilities garnered from a lifetime of walking can save us from a fall when the snowy ground suddenly turns to ice or when we almost-trip over the edge of the sidewalk.

In fact we have never been stable. To walk is to move with perception and its continual activation of a million stabilities and instabilities, rightings and unbalancings. Without the interweaving of the past in the present, we couldn't simply get up and walk - each walking would have to be a relearning of moving through the tiny disjunctive equilibriums we call balance.

The walk becomes a habitual movement through the memory of having walked. We feel the more-than of its habitualness when we suddenly can't right ourselves. A sore ankle takes the habit out of the walk. We find we have to tweak the metastabilities of our incipient movement toward new angles of comfort. But soon we get the hang of it and before we know it, the walk is walking us once more.

An incipient tendency toward taking a step is felt as a walk when the divergent metastabilities congeal into a singularity - a decisive turn. The flow of the walk now feels less like a stepping than a moving horizontality. Yet this horizontality, like the steps themselves, is composed of an infinity of microtendencies toward verticality, the most obvious being the verticality of the body itself in relation to the horizontal ground across which it moves.

The walk: an almost-falling verticality transduced into an inclination for horizontality.


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The walk's unfolding as horizontality depends on finding within its quality of movement the doubleness of its point of virtual departure and arrival. This two-directional betweenness is what gives the movement its horizontalizing consistency. It is through the virtual interval of the walk's preacceleration that walking is transformed from a step into a movement.

After we have followed the lines of divergence beyond the turn, these lines must intersect again, not at the point from which we started, but rather at a virtual point, at a virtual image of the point of departure, which is itself located beyond the turn in experience; and which finally gives us the sufficient reason of the thing, the sufficient reason of the composite, the sufficient reason of the point of departure Deleuze, The virtual image of the point of departure is akin to Forsythe's idea of thinking-feeling the movement's contribution to spacetimes of experience even after the displacement has taken place.

We move through the future feeling present. Memory is visionary in the sense of foresight: a seeing-with-before. Moving someone else's moving while you're watching them move is like feeling future movement. You are moving with the incipient future the always nextness of movement in the present passing. This is recollection at work. Recollecting is moving the future the thought becoming memory through the past in the present. Forsythe calls the experimentation with this recollection-in-movement dancing with "a cloud of form," and describes it as a proprioceptive gathering of tendencies not actually reproduced but reactivated such that they can take form in relation to their already having taken place.

Recollecting produces future memory, it creates visions for movement. Lived experience is the experience of fielding this visionariness of experience. Key to becoming visionary is to move through remarkable points, to catch decisive turns in the making. The taking-form of movement is rhythmic. Rhythm is another way of evoking the multiplicity of time-slips of experience in any given occasion. Rhythm is not added to movement from outside its taking form. Rhythm is its taking form. Because each rhythm is itself a duration, rhythm is what gives time to incipient movement, characterizing that singular movement's in-timeness.

This intimeness is not a beat [21] or a measure but a quality of becoming that is coterminous with the incipiency of the movement's preacclereation and the elasticity of its unfolding. Rhythm cuts across measure. It is akin to Forsythe's sounding movement. It makes felt the microperceptual. Choreography's ecology is rhythmical. Choreography is composed of an infinity of slightly varying velocities, vibrations, sensations. These qualities are in and of matter, active in the transduction from force to form.

These individuating qualities give specificity to the environment, inflecting the ways bodies move with and through it. The movement in turn creates time-volumes that populate the co-configuring atmosphere. Choreography, as Forsythe emphasizes, is not strictly about human bodies. It is about the creation of spacetimes of experience. Rhythmically, movement evolves in ecological concert with the becoming-environment. Rhythm signs duration, lending duration its time-signature. Bergson insists: duration has rhythm.

The time-signature of a jump is vastly different from the time-signature of a float. The jump's time-signature or rhythm is felt on the verge of experience in the feeling of an inclination whereas the rhythm of a float is experienced in a buoyancy verging on sinking. The feeling for duration experienced through these different time-signatures is the rhythm of their mattering. Rhythm plays on this verging of experience that gives quality to matter. It adds a quality to experience's taking form. Rhythm textures a becoming-form, bringing a singular quality to its individuation.

Rhythm makes felt the singularity of lived experience. Choreographic practice in an open ecology of biogrammatic endurance is rhythm in motion. Whitehead writes: "There is a becoming of continuity, but no continuity of becoming" Whitehead, A proposition calls forth a becoming of continuity even while it resists the continuity of becoming. Embedded in the actual occasion and immanent to its unfolding, propositions call forth a tendency within the occasion to open itself toward a singularity of expression. Once admitted into experience, there is no longer becoming: the event is absolutely what it has become.

Just thinking about it, you feel a slight twisting of your torso and a pre-feeling of vertigo. Eyes behind my head? But note: you've already begun moving. It may as yet be imperceptible, but your shoulder is already starting to lower. You've thought-felt the movement's impossibility even as you preaccelerated into the movement. As a movement realizes itself, it stops becoming. It perishes along the nexus of thought-feelings. In Whitehead's terms, it has achieved its satisfaction.

There can be no continuity of becoming when an event has taken form. But there can and will be more becoming of continuity: another movement is already folding-through. If there were continuity of becoming, there would be no decisive turn where a feeling is strictly what it had become. There would be no experiencing of the time-signature of a movement event. Everything would be process.

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For lived experience, it is necessary for there to be a cut that brings contrast to duration, a decisive turn through which an actual occasion takes form and is felt as such. Events emerge from a process immanent to their emergence. When the events have fully taken form, they will forever remain what they have become. This arabesque will forever have been this arabesque.

Yet every future instance of an arabesque will be affected by the continuum of the arabesque-as-nexus. The arabesque is both absolutely what it is now and an infinity of qualitative arabesque-contributions toward a dancing future. This means that while there is no continuity of becoming for the event per se, there is continuity of becoming on the durational plane of experience. The arabesque-as-nexus is not an event: it contributes the feeling of arabesque for the subsequent arabesque-event.

Whitehead has two terms for the durational or virtual becoming of continuity: nexus and extensive continuum. The nexus is the plane through which the shadow of past events contributes to present activations. The extensive continuum is more vague. It is the withness of the vastness of durational plenitude. Singular movement develops out of this extensive continuum, emergent in relation to all of the micropotentialities of pastness and futurity that make up an event.

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Previously he was founding president and vice-chancellor of the HafenCity University Hamburg. He is an authority on the work of William Forsythe as well as on contemporary European, especially Swiss, architecture. Rating details. Book ratings by Goodreads. Goodreads is the world's largest site for readers with over 50 million reviews. We're featuring millions of their reader ratings on our book pages to help you find your new favourite book.

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