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The West Coast Falls for Forsythe

After 40 years in Europe, choreographer William Forsythe recently put down stateside roots as a professor at the University of Southern California’s new Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. USC is welcoming him with Fall for Forsythe, a monthlong festival that culminates October 21–23, when Pacific Northwest Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and Houston Ballet perform influential works at The Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles.

“I can’t wait to see the way each company dances his work,” says SFB artistic director Helgi Tomasson, alluding to the unique blend of rigorous classicism and convention-flouting individuality Forsythe cultivates. SFB will perform Pas/Parts 2016, created on Paris Opéra Ballet in 1999 and extensively reworked on SFB’s dancers.

Dores André, Jennifer Stahl, Maria Kochetkova and Frances Chung in Forsythe’s Pas/Parts 2016 (photo by Erik Tomasson, courtesy SFB)
Dores André, Jennifer Stahl, Maria Kochetkova and Frances Chung in Forsythe’s Pas/Parts 2016 (photo by Erik Tomasson, courtesy SFB)

“What is primary in Bill’s work is your knowledge of proper classical ballet,” says SFB principal Sofiane Sylve, who met Forsythe as a 17-year-old at Dutch National Ballet. Equally essential is a willingness to try anything: “He goes, ‘Now I’d like to see it off-balance, backwards and reversed.’ All of a sudden, you’re learning a new language.”

PNB will dance The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude; artistic director Peter Boal expects the experience to have lasting impact. “Vertiginous is pure classical technique,” he says. Drawing a parallel to the speed and attack required for dancing Balanchine, Boal adds, “They’re going to do a better Theme and Variations now. It’s that sort of wild daring.”

Kathryn Bennetts, 15-year ballet mistress with Forsythe’s previous company Ballet Frankfurt, will stage the Houston women in Artifact Suite (Noah Gelber will stage the men). She distills Forsythe’s vision, and his artistic impact, down to a love for dance and dancers. “He walks into a studio and just wants to see what’s possible,” she says. “That’s what all dancers want: to be encouraged to go beyond what they think they can do.” ‒—Claudia Bauer

Natalia Osipova and Artists Comes to the U.S.

After whetting her appetite for contemporary dance in 2014’s Solo for Two, ballet superstar Natalia Osipova will present the U.S. premiere of three works in her new program, Natalia Osipova and Artists, at New York City Center, November 10–12.

After a summer run in London and Edinburgh, Osipova will continue to share the stage with former Royal Ballet principal, and romantic partner, Sergei Polunin. 

Osipova and Polunin dance together in Russell Maliphant’s Silent Echo and Arthur Pita’s Run Mary Run, while she is joined by contemporary dancers James O’Hara and Jason Kittelberger for Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Qutb. —Nicole Loeffler-Gladstone

Like the Gardens of Versailles

George Balanchine’s Gounod Symphony isn’t often performed. This 25-minute ballet, set to the French composer’s lively first symphony, has largely faded from popular repertoire. (It was last performed at New York City Ballet in 1993, and by the School of American Ballet in 2007.) But this fall, The Suzanne Farrell Ballet is bringing Gounod back. It will receive its company premiere October 21–23 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. 

The Suzanne Farrell Ballet in rehearsal (photo  courtesy The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts)
The Suzanne Farrell Ballet in rehearsal (photo courtesy The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts)

The ballet was first performed in January 1958 at New York City Center, its cast of 32 led by Maria Tallchief and Jacques d’Amboise. But the dancer most closely associated with the lead ballerina role was the French-born Violette Verdy. There is something very French about Gounod, a kind of brilliance and formality associated with the Paris Opéra. Its choreography overflows with patterns: crossing and parallel lines, and weaving. Verdy compared it to the gardens of Versailles, and, in fact, the sets designed by Horace Armistead were originally intended and used for NYCB’s production of Antony Tudor’s Jardin aux Lilas. The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, however, is developing a new look. Though she won’t reveal any details, Farrell says the concept “will allow us to see the choreography better.”

She will be staging it, though the ballet’s rarity means she never danced it herself. Her tools are “an old, silent archival video in black-and-white” starring Diana Adams and Jacques d’Amboise, in addition to the Gounod score.  (She staged the ballet once before, for the School of American Ballet, in 1991.) Since there are no easily accessible videos of the ballet for her dancers to study, everyone in the room will be learning the choreography for the first time. As she puts it: “It’s almost as if the ballet were being created now by Mr. B.” —Marina Harss

Baryshnikov in Letter to a Man (photo by Lucie Jansch, courtesy Brooklyn Academy of Music)
Baryshnikov in Letter to a Man (photo by Lucie Jansch, courtesy Brooklyn Academy of Music)

Mikhail Baryshnikov Becomes Nijinsky

Adding another milestone to his already untouchable career, Mikhail Baryshnikov will take on the role of iconic ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky in director Robert Wilson’s one-man show, Letter to a Man. The work had its premiere in Italy in 2015 and has its U.S. debut as part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival, October 15–30.

Though Baryshnikov and Nijinsky were ballet titans of their respective generations, Letter to a Man is theater, not dance. And Wilson’s vision won’t result in a literal biography of the troubled danseur. Rather, it’s an interpretation of the diaries Nijinsky kept while he suffered from schizophrenia. The play’s title is from a letter written from Nijinsky to his former lover and Ballets Russes founder Sergei Diaghilev—when their relationship was such that Nijinsky wouldn’t even say his name.

The play will also tour to University of California, Berkeley, November 10–13; and University of California, Los Angeles, November 18–19. —NLG

Ballet All Over

An American in Paris Goes On Tour

The Tony Award–winning musical will close its Broadway run on October 9. But New York City’s loss is everyone else’s gain: The national tour opens in Schenectady, New York, this month, and will travel to Boston, Miami, Denver, Seattle and Atlanta—with many more stops along the way—between October 2016 and August 2017.

An American in Paris’ national tour will feature former San Francisco Ballet soloist Garen Scribner as Jerry Mulligan and former Miami City Ballet soloist Sara Esty as Lise Dassin.

For the full schedule: anamericaninparisbroadway.com.

—NLG

Happy World Ballet Day!

As if you needed another excuse to binge-watch ballet, World Ballet Day LIVE returns for its third consecutive year of live streaming on October 4. The global behind-the-scenes event features some of the world’s top companies: The Australian Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, Royal Ballet, National Ballet of Canada and San Francisco Ballet. Viewers can expect interviews, company class and a peek at rehearsals, including NBoC’s Cinderella and Onegin.

Check out the World Ballet Day website for a breakdown of how and when to watch each company, and join in with YouTube’s live chat feature, which lets balletomanes from around the world connect during the stream.

For more information: worldballetday.com. —NLG