The Forsythe Company, Sadler's Wells, London

As avant-garde meets disco, be afraid, be petrified

Audiences may have learnt to approach William Forsythe with an open mind, but the last thing anyone expected from the arch deconstructionist was a disco anthem.

I Don't Believe in Outer Space, his latest creation for the German-based, 18-strong company of uber-dancers that bears his name, has almost nothing to do with the universe, and almost everything to do with a certain 1979 hit by Gloria Gaynor.

"I Will Survive" indeed. The song's resonance for Forsythe, even if tongue in cheek, isn't hard to guess. In 1979, when the record was everywhere, the choreographer was 30, had a beautiful young wife, and the world at his feet. Since then he has suffered crisis after crisis, first with the loss of his wife to cancer, then with the implosion of his career, when funders pulled the plug on Ballett Frankfurt, his laboratory and shop window.

This piece, then, is a testament to the randomness of life, half disco camp, half deadly serious. On a stage strewn with balls of screwed-up gaffer tape, resembling small black meteorites – random scatter-shot from outer space – dancers in vests and hoodies variously lurch and squirm in the disjointed, verging on paraplegic, fashion Forsythe has made his own. One guy has padded the seat of his jeans with the plasticated lumps, and wiggles them lasciviously.

Thom Willems' score is a patchwork of lunar pulsings and scraps of jazzy lounge music. Not once does the melody of Gloria Gaynor's No 1 hit impinge. But there is spoken text – torrents of it. And the joke is the way that pop song's lyrics, slyly slipped in among other voluble ravings, and delivered with great poetic seriousness, gradually trigger recognition. Chuckles erupt in different pockets of the audience as the penny drops.

In 70 minutes of what mostly feels like chaos, there are a few memorable cameos. Funniest is a furiously competitive, ball-less game of ping-pong, in which one player has two bats and the other has none. More funny-peculiar is an unsettling turn by Dana Caspersen, in which she acts both of two neighbours – one pushy and witch-like, the other timid and harassed – while also voicing the stage directions ("leans forward, hands clasped" etc), gradually accelerating like a cartoon animation. As a picture of chance in relation to mortality, what Forsythe seems to be saying is: don't even try to make sense of stuff – I can't.

Next Week:

As the Royal Ballet unveils its first new full-length ballet in 15 years, Jenny Gilbert hopes for a veritable wonderland

Dance Choice

Dancing horses are the stars of The Centaur and the Animal at Sadler's Wells (Tue to Sun), while at London's Southbank, English National Ballet makes a spectacle of its Emerging Dancer Award, preceded by a day of linked events (Mon). Meanwhile Ailey 2 continues its first UK tour visiting Brighton (Tue & Wed) and Bournemouth (Fri & Sat).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
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.

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing