All right, a few days later I have a few more thoughts.
First, what interests me most about Quintett is its idea of an artwork’s shape. Some of the other pieces in the program seem more driven by movement exploration–let’s do this thing until we get sick of it–but Quintett has no such obvious framework. Instead, it works by suggestion, by intuition, the various moments of the piece attached to each other by the strange self-consciousness of the dancers. As an artwork, it’s not didactic, not statement-making, not “about” something, not attempting to cover all the aspects of something, not interested in thesis. A lot of works, in my opinion, run aground on the need to summarize, to pin down–Quintett is entirely free of this pull. And yet it feels motivated, whole. It’s an inspiration. How can we make something that is wildly various in style and mode and does not build to a conclusion, yet holds together on the inside?
My other thought is about ballet. Ballet is, importantly, a aesthetic system. Its rules describe a canon of beauty. To turn the leg out this way and point it, always with the toes extending the line of the leg and the heel coming back toward the ankle, is beautiful; to turn the leg in and sickle the foot is ugly. At least, that’s what ballet technique tells us. We’ve been talking a bit about the space-defining nature of ballet–its geometry–but we haven’t addressed its description of beauty. I see Forsythe as taking that standard of beauty and warping it this way and that way–not to be perverse, but because our imaginations have changed. We now see the purposely sickled foot as another form of beauty. We love complexity and difference where our ancestors longed for simplicity, universality. I’m oversimplifying, of course. But it’s worth remembering that ballet’s beauty arose in a time and place. What beauty fits this time and place?
I’m going to go back now and read through Dana’s articles (below on the “Walker Dance” blog). Has anyone read them yet? What do you think?