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.

 

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