Focus on Forsythe, Sadler's Wells, London

3.00

Tracing the steps of life and death

The Sadler's Wells celebration of the choreographer William Forsythe ends with a month-long bonanza, going beyond dance works and beyond the theatre itself. Over the next month, Forsythe installations will be set up around London, from nightclubs to galleries to a railway goods shed.

Forsythe, an American based in Germany, is probably best known for his wrenching, aggressively fast ballets. These earlier works are in the repertory of most major companies worldwide. With his own company, Forsythe tends to make works with speech, with more explicit use of theory, with deconstruction. There's an obvious overlap with conceptual art, something this Sadler's Wells season makes clear.

The performance installation You Made Me a Monster is in this category, putting the audience on stage with sculpture and dancers. When the show begins, it's dance as geography field trip, with the audience parcelled into groups, taken to on-stage tables and given tasks. The tables, about a dozen of them, have long metal rods, with cardboard shapes wound around them. The cardboard comes from models of skeletons, though they've been built up at random. We are urged to keep building, adding more cardboard bits to the growing sculptures. After that, we make pencil tracings of the shadows cast by the tangled, skeletal bits. The tracings make a script for the dancers, so the performance changes every time.

The other script is projected, line by line, onto a screen. It's an account – without names, just "my wife" and "I" – of Forsythe's wife's death from cancer. It focuses on details: how he and his wife felt treated by doctors, how they were creating a piece on xenophobia, with images of the body invaded from within. He remembers her as a dancer, how illness affected her body, her smell. The cardboard skeletons are another memory, a Christmas present. Years after her death, he made up the skeleton, but at random, not according to instructions. He created "a model of something I understood. It was a model of grief."

Then dancers start to move among the tables. Their movements look uncontrolled. Heads twitch spasmodically, feet are twisted on to their sides, hands curled up into claws. They howl and mumble as they move. Bursts of electronic sound build and clash.

The dancing is in sync with the projected lines of script; the one female dancer twists and roars as the text describes the wife as a dancer. The screen also shows images of hands building the skeleton. As the script reaches Forsythe's image of "a model of grief", I noticed for the first time that the hand wore a wedding ring.

That lucid prose is the strongest thing in You Made Me a Monster. Forsythe's memories are both clear and angry, evoking rage and grief. The audience's skeleton-building exercise makes you focus on the narrative. How much does the dancing really add? The lurching and howling express inarticulate grief, but are less powerful than the personal experience of the text.

There are more installations around the theatre. In the film Solo, you can see Forsythe moving from classical ballet into his own twisting, wrenching vocabulary. Here, the twists get repetitive, frantic for too long. In Suspense, Forsythe ties himself up in ropes, sometimes dangling for a while before screaming and untying himself.

The strongest film is the double video Antipodes I/II. Set up opposite each other, two films show Forsythe dancing around a table. One is hung upside down: the other side of the globe. In both cases, up isn't where you think it is. In the right-way-up film, what looks like a wall (with a poster and a first aid box hanging on it) is a polished floor. Forsythe plays games with space and perception, a slide becoming a jump.

City of Abstracts, set up in the foyer, is the most fun. This installation films people as they pass, projecting but also distorting the image. There's a time delay, so your movements don't show up immediately. Sometimes wild ripples go through the image, a single body suddenly undulating or being pulled into loops around other figures. The weird, shimmering image makes you look at how people stand and move, then breaks it into a whirling abstraction.

Focus on Forsythe season continues until 10 May. Box office 0844 412 4300

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth

art

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee