The American choreographer William Forsythe has made his career in Europe, where his sensibility is best appreciated. For the past fourteen years, he’s led Ballett Frankfurt, which recently appeared at bam with his 1995 program-length Eidos: Telos. While international troupes from the New York City Ballet to the Paris Opéra Ballet have commissioned dances from Forsythe, it’s with his own company that this choreographer can fully deploy his signature mix of futuristic classicism and violent drama. The title Eidos: Telos plays with the Greek words for image and end (the latter in the dual sense of “aim” and “death”). The mathematically inclined Forsythe’s diagram and textual exegesis of his work given in the program notes are so academic as to appear antagonistic to dancing as the art of motion. The piece itself – though undistinguished as pure dancing and hardly an extension of classical ballet – might make effective movement theater if it resisted repeating its few ideas until they were worn out.
The abstract opening section, a sextet with onstage violinist, seems to oppose regimentation to fierce individuality. The middle, and most striking, part features a mechanized web that encompasses the stage and a bare-breasted “spider woman” who spews out her deepest, most nightmarish feelings. The final segment, with its many dancers going about disparate activities, challenges the eye to scan broadly yet focus sharply. It also proposes a makeshift resolution, with antagonistic elements being incorporated into a provisional community.
Like many a European production, Eidos: Telos is visually handsome in a self-consciously chic way. And it is magnificently performed with a robust, sculptural quality by Forsythe’s acolytes. Outstanding among them is Dana Caspersen, who doesn’t merely move eloquently but also sustains the long, frenzied verbal monologue (of her own composition, no less). At the end of the piece, she’s the one who remains isolated from the one-big-erratic-family effect and is, moreover, stripped of all her clothes. That’s where self-expression will get you.