The Frankfurt Ballet
TAT Bockenheimer Depot
December 8?17, 2000
Reviewed by Roslyn Sulcas
William Forsythe’s newest work, Kammer/Kammer, moves into terrain that is both surprising and yet, given this choreographer’s consistent interest in breaching the boundaries of disparate artistic forms, a logical extension of much of his recent work. Like another recent work, Endless House (see Reviews, Dance Magazine, April 2000, page 80), Kammer/Kammer was staged in the mutable open space of the Bockenheimer Depot, which the Frankfurt Ballet now uses as an alternative performance venue. Unlike Endless House, which allowed the audience to promenade around and among the dancers, the new work is set in a more conventional way, with graduated rows of seating facing the stage. But by positioning seven large screens both on the stage and over the audience, Forsythe achieves a similar multiplicity of perspective through film.
in fact feels more like a play-with-film than a dance work, even though it does incorporate some dance. The piece is based on two texts?Ann Carson’s “Irony is Not Enough: Essay on My Life as Catherine Deneuve” and Douglas Martin’s “Outline of My Lover”?each rendered as autobiographical narration (in powerful performances by Dana Caspersen and Antony Rizzi, respectively). The successive scenes mostly revolve around the two speakers, who tell their separate tales of love and loss?the secret passion of the university professor, who construes herself as Deneuve, for a female student; and “the boy in the blue sock hat,” who has an affair with “a famous international rock star.”
These two characters wander in and out of rooms constructed on stage by mobile walls, occasionally only visible on the screens that show us what is happening literally behind the scenes. Much of the ensemble dancing?vivid, fast, classical sequences to Bach and Busoni, or rough, highly coordinated leaping and tumbling across a mattress?is seen only in this form, and when Forsythe does put a hauntingly beautiful pas de deux (exquisitely danced by Stefanie Arndt and Ander Zabala) center stage, its tantalizing brevity illustrates how dance is not the creative heartbeat of this piece, but rather a kind of window onto another world, perhaps another work.
What does constitute the center of the piece is the relationship between what happens onstage and on-screen: The film captures the performance as it is taking place (just two sections are pre-recorded), with its own elaborate choreography?Busby Berkeley-like kaleidoscope effects, the fusion of different onstage scenes, split-second time lags between dancing onstage and on-screen?all carried out with quiet brilliance at each performance by “video designer” Philip Bussmann. Forsythe’s ability to fuse these visual layers with baroque (Bach, Telemann, Bach/Busoni) and contemporary (Thom Willems) music, the extensive narration, and the dance points yet again to his magisterial theatrical capacities and extraordinary ability to keep going beyond his own frames of reference. Kammer/Kammer does, however, beg the question of his creative direction: Those who love Forsythe’s endlessly inventive and personal means of shaping movement must hope that dance will come into focus again.