What I Learned from Forsythe

Rebecca Rhodes in Balanchine's The Four Temperaments. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.

Most dancers drool over YouTube clips of William Forsythe's choreography, but few are lucky enough to work with him. Corps dancer Rebecca Rhodes had just that opportunity when Forsythe revived hisPas/Parts at San Francisco Ballet. Until now, it has only been performed by the Paris Opéra Ballet. Catch it select dates Jan. 24-Feb. 5. For Pointe's biweekly newsletter, we spoke with Rhodes about the rehearsal process.

 

How would you describe Pas/Parts?

It's very San Francisco Ballet. Bill really tailored each section to showcase each dancer. Yuan Yuan Tan's pas de deux, for instance, is gooey and seamless. Then the next section is Frances Chung moving super speedy and staccato. It feels like it's almost turned into a new premiere.

 

What's Forsythe like in the studio?

His ideas are constantly evolving and expanding, and that pushes me. As dancers, we usually know the choreography already and how we want to do it. But with Forsythe, it's different every single time. To this day, he's still changing things. I've learned to never be complacent.

 

The score, by Thom Willems, doesn't have too much musical structure. Is it tricky to keep track of the timing?

I think the music works well for the movement, but there are some sections where everything cuts outs and it's just noises, such as a piece of paper being crumpled. There are moments where you could get lost, but our ballet masters and mistresses have really broken it down so we can stay together.

 

What advice would you give those learning a new piece?

Have fun. That's something I've taken away from each rehearsal. We're always laughing, even though there's a very high level demanded of us. It's easy to get focused on technique, counts, artistry and details, but it's been a human experience with Forsythe. I feel privileged to have encountered that.

 

Latest Posts


Dean Barucija, Courtesy Lopes Gomes

Chloé Lopes Gomes Speaks Out About Racial Harassment at Staatsballett Berlin

In November, the French dancer Chloé Lopes Gomes went public with accusations of institutional racism against Staatsballett Berlin, first reported by the German magazine Der Spiegel. In the article, several anonymous dancers confirm her account. Lopes Gomes, 29, who trained in Marseille and at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, danced for the Ballet de l'Opéra de Nice and Béjart Ballet Lausanne before joining Staatsballett Berlin as a corps de ballet member in 2018, under then co-directors Johannes Öhman and Sasha Waltz. After the company told her in October that her contract, which ends in July, would not be renewed, she shared her story with Pointe.


I didn't know I was the first Black female dancer at Staatsballett Berlin when I joined the company in 2018. I learned that from German journalists who came to interview me almost immediately. I grew up in a mixed-race family—my mother was French, my father from Cape Verde—and I was educated to believe that we all have the same opportunities.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Virginia Trudeau, Courtesy NBT

Viva Las Vegas: Life at Nevada Ballet Theatre, Plus Audition Tips From Director Roy Kaiser

Most people associate Las Vegas with "the Strip," where tourists enter a fantasy universe of blackjack, Cher shows and cocktails. But beyond the razzle-dazzle is a metropolitan area of more than 2 million with its own ballet company, Nevada Ballet Theatre. An ensemble of 25 dancers, NBT is now led by Roy Kaiser, former artistic director of Pennsylvania Ballet.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Kylie Jefferson (center, back) in "Tiny Pretty Things" (Sophie Giraud, courtesy Netflix)

Netflix’s “Tiny Pretty Things” Faces Ballet Stereotypes Head-On

The pilot of Netflix's dance-centric series "Tiny Pretty Things"—based on the YA novel by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton—will leave you breathless. It touches on, well, everything: love, murder, racism, competition, jealousy, girl cliques, sexual experimentation, eating disorders. And the intricate plot is propelled by equally breathtaking ballet sequences.

Here are the basics of that plot: The Archer School of Ballet is the premiere conservatory in Chicago. During the first three minutes of the episode (no spoilers!), star student Cassie Shore is pirouetting along the edge of the roof of the school when she's pushed off by a hooded man (Her boyfriend? A jealous lover? A ballet master or choreographer?) and dies. Neveah Stroyer, who'd previously been rejected from the school, is flown in from L.A. to replace her.

While the series can verge on melodrama—the pilot does open with a dancer being pushed off a roof, after all—its depiction of the finer details of the ballet world feels spot-on. That was paramount to the production team. "We wanted the dancers to feel represented in their athleticism, and in the sometimes ugly business of making something beautiful," says executive producer Jordanna Fraiberg. "The show encompasses the grit and sweat, before it's wrapped up in costumes and makeup."

Catch "Tiny Pretty Things" streaming on Netflix Monday, December 14.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks