PNB's Leta Biasucci on the Joy of Dancing William Forsythe's "The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude"
As told to Amy Brandt by
I first saw a video of The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude as a student at the San Francisco Ballet School summer program. Then we learned a little bit of it in variations class, and it made such an impression on me. It was unlike anything I had learned in my technique classes. It really opened my eyes, and I was so enchanted by this whole new dimension of ballet.
At 11 minutes long, it’s very much a sprint. When you hear the first “da-da-da!” you know how exhausted you’re going to feel by the end. But with that feeling of exhaustion comes this great sense of exhilaration—every moment of it is thrilling.
There are a lot of quirky “Forsythian” moments, which is part of what makes it vertiginous. The steps, of course, stress me out—I’m like, I gotta nail my turn here. But the first time Bill Forsythe came to work with us, he said, “Steps do not interest me.” He wants to see dancers sculpt and carve through space in a way that’s more interesting than just doing the choreography. That gave me a newfound freedom in the way I was able to approach the piece. And he was really adamant that the ballet was about the joy of dance. He said, “Listen to the music: It’s joyful, it’s grand, it’s huge. It’s not holding back—neither should you.”
The musicality is so important. Bill was very insistent on everything being deliberate and precise, and I think that’s ultimately what makes the piece such a thrill to watch and to do. Those half-seconds where you sustain, and then go? I think that’s what he’s interested in—that time when there isn’t really time, when you could make time.
When performing any piece that challenges my technique or stamina, I like to remind myself that I can’t take the performance with me anywhere. I’m not doing anyone a favor by letting nerves get the better of me or by holding back. Of course, there are some turns, and I want to hit those. But my best shows aren’t exactly the ones where I nailed the turns. They are the ones in which I had the greatest sense of freedom and joy onstage.