Music: Johann Sebastian Bach (Chaconne, from Partita No. 2 in D minor for solo violin, BWV 1004)
Choreography: William Forsythe
Staging: Glen Tuggle
Scenic, Costume, and Lighting Design: William Forsythe
Duration: 17 minutes
Premiere: December 5, 1984: Ballett Frankfurt
Pacific Northwest Ballet Premiere: February 24, 1998
American-born choreographer William Forsythe has been called “one of history’s landmark choreographers.” Artifact was the first work made for Ballett Frankfurt by Forsythe after his appointment as director in 1984. In Artifact II, the second section of this four-part, full-length work, two couples attempt to break away from a large mass of dancers, who are led by a ghostly, grey specter. Militant hand and arm movements alternate with Forsythe’s thrillingly athletic dance, all interrupted by the curtain periodically crashing to the stage.
Describing Artifact, dance writer Roslyn Sulcas wrote: “[This] is dance that is immediately identifiable as ‘ballet’ but that registers simultaneously the shock of the new, as configurations of familiar positions are altered, and conventional transitions between steps are eschewed or given deliberate and unusual emphasis.” Forsythe creates works that “make classical dance seem as valid and exploratory a form of contemporary art as any other style of movement.”
Regarding his role as an innovator, Forsythe commented, “A lot of people from different disciplines, strangely enough, seem to understand what I am doing and that I am definitely concerned with ballet. ...I see the apparent potential of ballet because, first of all, so many people know it. It’s like a language. Ballet can’t just stop evolving now. There must be a way to imagine new approaches.”
Artifact II had its PNB premiere in 1998 during Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Silver Anniversary Season. That premiere also marked the first performances of Artifact II by a North American company.
Notes compiled by Doug Fullington.