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The Forsythe Company in "Decreation"

by Robert Johnson
October 10, 2009
Brooklyn Academy of Music
30 Lafayette Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11217
(718) 636-4111
Where: Howard Gilman Opera House, BAM, 30 Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn
When: 7:30 p.m., Oct. 10
How Much: Tickets are $25-$70. Call (718) 636-4100 or visit bam.org.
NEW YORK — -Domestic drama has become a theme of this year's Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. First Akram Khan and Juliette Binoche made their nest a battleground in "In-I," and now again, in "Decreation," choreographer William Forsythe takes audiences behind closed doors to spy on couples' private agony. In both ostensibly dance-theater pieces, the angry lovers use text as a projectile, grabbing words to hurl them at their partners while movement merely frames the struggle.

With so much at stake in the public arena these days (or is it just us, in the United States?), this may seem like an odd time for dance makers based in Europe to focus on such intimate scenes, turning their backs on the outside world. But at least last month's piece by Khan/Binoche, "In-I", had moments of searing heat, featuring not only some concrete debating points (the messy toilet seat; the incriminating photograph and that ghastly birthday fiasco) but also a scene in which Binoche described being strangled in bed. Not to mention that "In-I" probed the issues troubling inter-faith marriages.

In The Forsythe Company's ultra-fragmented "Decreation," however, which received its US premiere at BAM's Howard Gilman Opera House on Wednesday, irony steals the spotlight from passion. Forsythe's characters say they're hot with lust and rage, but the claim seems dubious. At the end of "Decreation," in a parody of "Bolero," a woman appears on a round table surrounded by onlookers. Gradually she turns black, charred and roasting as a fire of some kind burns below (we can smell the bar-b-que!). At least Forsythe has a sense of humor. Unlike this choreographer's notoriously misogynistic "Love Songs" of 1979, his current work has progressed to equal-opportunity, even same-sex spousal abuse; yet with these artificial flames we also have come a long way from "Love Song's" wrenching physicality.

In "Decreation" the table positioned upstage recalls a theme of "Kammer/Kammer," another Forsythe dance with privacy issues, but here references to Plato and Nietzsche are tossed around pretentiously. They bob up and down with the other scraps of dialog on a garbage-strewn sea of dramaturgy, while a technician with a mobile camera videotapes aspects of the scene, and David Morrow plays a keyboard as if accompanying a silent-movie melodrama.

If only "Decreation" were silent. Instead, we not only hear the lovers' rancorous insults—"You're a treacherous, compulsive slut, and you're a liar, etc."—but also the amplified whimpers and cries of the injured, which, like the dancers' twisted and disjointed body language recalls the suffering Id of Forsythe's cancer piece, "You Made Me a Monster." The characters of "Decreation" aren't ill, though. They're naturally monstrous, and they enjoy baiting each other.

Forsythe's performers give the piece expressive, nuanced weight—especially Dana Caspersen, wide-eyed with disbelief and rage; the sloppily affectionate Georg Reischl; and Richard Siegal, whose nastiness is wonderfully aimed. For all the histrionics of "Decreation," the piece is nuanced and precise. Yet by distracting himself with intellectual conceits like the theatricality of everyday life, Forsythe risks being as petty as his characters. Like them, he should stop to ask himself what motivates such childish behavior. Why are we really fighting?
William Forysthe's 'Decreation'

William Forysthe's "Decreation"

Photo © & courtesy of Julieta Cervantes


William Forysthe's 'Decreation'

William Forysthe's "Decreation"

Photo © & courtesy of Julieta Cervantes


William Forysthe's 'Decreation'

William Forysthe's "Decreation"

Photo © & courtesy of Julieta Cervantes

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