Who is William Forsythe?

William Forsythe is one of the most influential 20th-century ballet choreographers due to his unique, physics-based exploration of the body’s movement potential. An intellectual and an innovator, Forsythe rethought movement in ways that forever changed the use of line, energy, and composition in ballet. His work for us includes The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude; Artifact Suite; in the middle, somewhat elevated; and Pas/Parts 2016.

SF Ballet in Forsythe's Pas/Parts 2016 // © Erik Tomasson

Forsythe’s movement style is based on counterbalance, both within an individual’s body and in partnering. His style expands on the classical ballet concept of épaulement, in which a dancer’s head and upper body move in opposition to the rest of the body. This “twisting” creates tension, dynamism, and beauty: think about portraits in which the subjects look over one shoulder—they’re more alive and engaging than forward-facing poses with shoulders squared. Forsythe pushes this use of torque to an extreme, extending the arms far behind the body and using the hips to add rotation. In partnering, the same principles make weight placement and balance a shared experience between the two dancers, and allow for cantilevering and extreme extensions.

Principal Dancer Joseph Walsh notes, “Working with Forsythe isn’t just about making up choreography. It’s stepping into an alternate universe where dance, sound, and life collide. There is literally never a dull moment. He is still changing the game; it’s in his blood, and it’s contagious.”