Leaving an Empire Behind

November 1, 2015

The Forsythe Company has morphed into a completely new troupe.

Godani (in green) rehearses his dancers. Photo by Raffaele Irace, courtesy Dresden Frankfurt Dance Company.

When William Forsythe announced last year that he was stepping down from The Forsythe Company, the future of the troupe he founded in 2005 came into question. From its ashes, however, a brand-new ensemble was born this summer: the Dresden Frankfurt Dance Company, with Italian choreographer Jacopo Godani at the helm.

Godani started with an unusually clean slate, as Forsythe chose to disperse his own contemporary ensemble and dissolve its repertoire. The Dresden Frankfurt Dance Company is essentially a new company inheriting Forsythe’s funding: The 14 performers are all new, and Godani’s work will be its primary focus, though the company will perform one Forsythe piece each year. The hires include dancers who have worked with Godani in the past, and a few recruited from auditions. “The old company finished a month before we arrived, and I spent time with Forsythe to know how it functioned,” Godani says. Public funding for The Forsythe Company has carried over to the new ensemble, which means the Dresden Frankfurt Dance Company is supported through 2018, with 25 performances a season in both Dresden and Frankfurt am Main.

After dancing with Forsythe throughout the 1990s, Godani had created works for a wide range of companies, from Nederlands Dans Theater to the Royal Danish Ballet and Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. Forsythe himself suggested Godani as a potential replacement, but he also had to be cleared by the funding bodies involved with the company, including the cities of Dresden and Frankfurt am Main.

The new director-choreographer plans to bring back pointe work, and has two creations scheduled for the season. “I’m focusing on dance that is performative, athletic, sophisticated,” Godani says. He acknowledges Forsythe’s influence on his work, but says his style was shaped by his subsequent years of freelancing. “I don’t work with improvisation, I don’t workshop, I like to choreograph every step. I’m looking to establish a strong identity for the company through the dancers’ power, as well as music and dynamics.”

Internationally, the new company is also starting from scratch. Negotiations are underway for tours in 2015 and beyond, some with venues that used to host The Forsythe Company on a regular basis and others with new presenters. Godani is also keen to take his dancers to alternative locations in Germany. He acknowledges that comparison with The Forsythe Company “will be inevitable, but I’m not worried about it. I know where I’m going, and I hope people will be open to it.”