Further evidence that the 21st century actually arrived sometime in the mid-1980s: Choreographer William Forsythe was propelling ballet, modern and postmodern dance into places they'd never gone before. When using the techniques of ballet to shatter and explore the body as an unfamiliar series of conflicting and contradictory planes, Forsythe has seemed to channel Picasso and Duchamp in works of audacious, jaw-dropping human origami, with the Stuttgart Ballet, Ballet Frankfurt and then his own self-named company.
His receipt on Saturday night of the ADF/Scripps Award for lifetime achievement (and a check for $50,000) only partially rectifies his long-term absence from the American Dance Festival stages. More than 20 years after the dance world embraced him (and 11 years after Carolina Ballet performed his Steptext), ADF first showed six minutes of his work in 2009 when Aspen Santa Fe Ballet included his Slingerland Pas de Deux in an evening showcase.
Now, his work—but not his company—appears in another showcase, when Hubbard Street Dance Chicago presents Quintett to the Gavin Bryars composition "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet." It's described as a choreographic love letter composed while his first wife, Tracy Kai-Meier, was dying of cancer in 1994. Forsythe told the Chicago Sun-Times, "I had in mind something Tennessee Williams wrote about a woman walking by a graveyard at night and hearing voices that say, 'Live, live.' I wanted to do a piece about living, not dying."
Forsythe's piece shares the bill with works by Sharon Eyal of Batsheva Dance Company and Twyla Tharp's Scarlatti. Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; tickets run $18–$51. —Byron Woods
Correction: The ADF/Scripps Award will be presented Saturday (not Friday) night.