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Royal Ballet of Flanders: William Forsythe's "Artifact" at Sadler's Wells, 2012


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After a grim drive, I "stepped inside" ...... and saw some tremendous ensemble dances plus, I understand, "Steptext" ..... but I heard some distinctly odd stuff about remembering to forget about dust and rocks and was given to understand at one point that it "was all the same fornicating thing" (I think I paraphrase correctly). Well, perhaps so ..... but I need to "step outside" and try to sort it out a bit before writing more. Lots of folk loved it all, clearly - perhaps not including the chap to my left who seemed to nod off for most of it. Rocks ..... dust ...... remember ...... forget ..... hear .... see ......

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A couple of photos from the dress rehearsal (Parts 1 & 2) of William Forsythe's 'Artifact'

 

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Artifact (William Forsythe) performed by Royal Ballet Flanders

© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

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Artifact (William Forsythe) performed by Royal Ballet Flanders

© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

 

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Dave Morgan's Royal Ballet of Flanders (Artifact), a set on Flickr

Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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There will be more reviews in tomorrow's Links - all 4/5 Star so far. If you can still get a ticket, I'd say go - the ensemble work is really very good, indeed, and if you can get with Forsythe's concept as per that interview, the meandering characters will not bother you. Whatever the case, it's an intriguing theatrical experience.

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I saw Artifact last night. I can't say that I loved it. I'm probably a philistine, but I did not like the speaking parts which I just found annoying, distracting and pointless most of the time. I also found the low lighting towards the beginning annoying. This is probably deliberate, but I sometimes wish that lighting designers would sit in the upper circle/amphitheatre and think whether the paying audience are getting a good view for their money (this applies to other recent performances I've seen as well). I really liked most of the dancing, both pdds and corps. For me, the section with the golden lighting in the second Act was the best part of the ballet. However, I'm very glad that I went because it may be a long time before it is performed in its entirety in the UK again (after Birmingham, of course).

 

Btw, does anyone know how Artifact Suite differs from Artifact (apart from being shorter, of course). Is the former an excerpt of the latter or is the choreography completely different? I was interested to learn that it was created for Scottish Ballet in 2004.

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Btw, does anyone know how Artifact Suite differs from Artifact (apart from being shorter, of course). Is the former an excerpt of the latter or is the choreography completely different? I was interested to learn that it was created for Scottish Ballet in 2004.

 

I think Lynette discusses this in her excellent review which was posted on Dance Tabs earlier today:

http://www.dancetabs...rtifact-london/

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Reading through all the reports and reviews of this performance, I began to wonder: is this ballet one that's better viewed fairly much head-on, rather than from above? I certainly missed some of the allusions others seem to have picked up on, and wonder whether that had anything to do with my being up in the second circle, where the height and closeness to the stage mean that you tend to look over the dancers and perceive them as individuals rather as seeing them more as in a block.

 

I was also struggling to hear the man with a megaphone, which seems rather strange ...

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I watched it from both the first and second circles and thought it came over better from higher up where the birds' eye view meant one could take in the whole stage more easily - especially the parts where the dancers were lined up on either side of the stage, halfway into the wings. I thought the man with the megaphone's mutterings were meant to be partially inaudible. He did seem to be living in a world of his own and there was no attempt to relate to the audience.

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Trying to remember what I thought I saw… I loved the dancing,, the pdds and especially the corps. But did I enjoy the production as much as I had hoped? No. I left the theatre strangely flat, almost certainly because the Characters, the shouting, the whole of Act 3 I found distracting. I was prepared for a bit of speaking, so all of that was a shock. I felt I was trying to work out what it all meant and I felt I was missing something. I’ve been reading more reviews since I saw it and it makes more sense to me on an intellectual level, but it didn’t make me like those parts of it any more. The audience seemed to go wild People around me were exclaiming over the brilliant technique and over how clever it was, and it was sold out – people were queueing for returns. But there were more than quite a few bemused people too. I was in the amphitheatre too, fourth row from the front, and I thought it was a good seat. The low level of lighting in the first act was fine for me. I liked the idea of the dancers emerging out of the darkness. For me, Acts 2 and 4 were the stand-out parts, and possibly Act 4 pipped Act 2 because there was more from the corps, and I thought they were fantastic. Would I see it again (not that I’m likely to)? Yes, I would. I’d get more out of it another time and wouldn't be thrown by all the… unexpected stuff! If people see this in Birmingham, Act 1 and Act 3 after the interval start well before the house lights go down, which also threw some people!

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Artifact was very well received on Friday night too, although it was not sold out. I've been wondering about the the audiences at Sadler's Wells. When I've chatted to people there they don't seem to have been regular ballet-goers (who go to CG and the Coliseum) but people who go to Sadler's Wells regularly to see a variety of dance. I appreciate that this is only an impression, but my feeling is that the overlap between the CG and Coliseum audiences and the Sadler's Wells audiences is actually quite small. When I went to see Men in Motion in January the couple I spoke to didn't seem to have heard of Sergei Polunin (the big draw for me) who was upstaged on the night by Daniel Proietto. What do other people think?

 

Rowan, it's good to hear your thoughts. It's sacrilege I know (and it would be a completely different ballet) but I wish that the ballet could be redone without the annoying speaking and the cheap-looking boards in Act 3! I'd like to see just the dancing!

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Alison, I like all the talky stuff most of the time. Forsythe evidently decided years ago that his choreography was not to be confined in the ballet box and I say thank goodness for his experimental approach. There are plenty of other people who are content to let their dancers remain mute.

 

Aileen, the Sadler's Wells audience is certainly different from that at the ROH and I reckon if you go to The Place it will be different again. Younger and more variegated I think. I think there is a feeling (which I don't at all share) that ballet is for old fuddy-duddies and modern dance is for the hip and young.

 

On Saturday at SW I recognised a few familiar faces from the ROH audience but interestingly they were outnumbered by members of the Royal Ballet, management and dancers.

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I'm not a talky person!

 

I thought Clement Crisp got it right with 3 stars. Most critics have been giving it 4 or 5 stars which I thought bonkers and seriously misleading to many casual dance goers. The movement is 5 stars and the dancers were good as well, but all the dramatic tat really, really, detracts and so I'd say it was a 3 star show as well. Thank goodness Balanchine didn't think he had to do drama in a new way too!

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Yes, perhaps someone could re-do Artifact without the speaking parts but with just the dancing and call it 'Artfact Unpacked' or something like that (I'm not being sarcastic). I'm still unclear about what Artifact Suite is like despite reading the Dance Tabs article. Can anyone illuminate?

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