It doesn’t come much better: William Forsythe’s Quiet Evening of Dance

Sadler’s Wells, London
October 4, 2018

Maggie Foyer

Two older dancers stand side by side on Sadler’s Wells stage. Both look directly out to the audience but the communication between them is palpable. Jill Johnson and Christopher Roman execute an intricate semaphore of arms movement in a silence so complete that it envelopes the whole auditorium. The movements repeat incessantly, seemingly the same but always shifting, as more and more of the body becomes involved, torso, hips, knees, legs and hey, they’re dancing! A lifetime of practicing their art until it is ingrained in each fibre is now expressed with easy grace. We were promised a quiet evening of dance and Mr Forsythe has delivered.

Seven top dancers, most having long term association with Forsythe, take the stage in a series of conversations. The language is brilliant in its sharpness and clarity, never overtly virtuosic although it nearly got there in a gorgeously tangled exhibition from Rauf “Rubber Legz” Yasit. Forsythe harnesses the vast resources of ballet technique, uses some of its birthright elegance and interprets it through new millennium muscles and attitudes. He structures it with all the intellectual skill we expect from him, then hands it over to his dancers to make it their own.

William Forsythe's Seventeen Twenty-One, part of A Quiet Evening of Dancewith Brigel Gjorka, Riley Watts and Ander Zabala GomezPhoto Bill Cooper
William Forsythe’s Seventeen Twenty-One,
part of A Quiet Evening of Dance
with Brigel Gjorka, Riley Watts and Ander Zabala Gomez
Photo Bill Cooper

Dialogue developed from DUO2015, an early incarnation for two female dancers, is now performed by Brogel Gjorka and Riley Watts. Dressed in laidback tank tops and floppy pants, the competitive spirit was in top gear as they spar with feigned indifference. The dance was thrilling and humour never far away. What a treat to see the heavenly Parvaneh Scharafali on stage for much of the evening; opening in a duet with Ander Zabala accompanied so perfectly, by birdsong. It is impossible to see too much of her as she quietly attracts your attention then holds it with her magic aura. Roman was another dancer with charismatic appeal. In the second half to music by Jean-Philippe Rameau, his classical ease delivered with noticeable irony was a treat.

With the astute choice of sounds, or silence, the stripped bare space, simple costumes with interesting addition of long vivid coloured gloves and an embarrassment of talent, dance evenings don’t come much better.