Artifact Suite + Petrushka



William Forsythe is a unique choreographer, who pushed classical dance to the breaking point and forced it to be modern, without abandoning pointe shoes. Forsythe discovers a new world of ballet, upgrades its choreographic language, explores how ballet can be combined with other forms of art. To dance Forsythe dancers have to get the thrill of exactitude, overcoming vertigo while turning the audience's heads.

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A scene from Artifact Suite. Photo by Damir Yusupov.

In 1984 he staged Artifact. It was one of his first full-length ballets and the first one that he created being Artistic Director of the Frankfurt Ballet. “This is a ballet about ballet,” he describes this work.

“I had to find my way around Balanchine, Petipa, Cranko, MacMillan, the whole crowd. I realised I had to move on”.

The original two-hour four-act piece introduces fantastically cohesive corps de ballet dancers (“It is about the process of people imitating one another in dance and in life,” Forsythe explains. “I think it is not a bad metaphor”), a Woman in a Historical Costume who conducts the corps de ballet and talks in a kind of recitative with another “talker” (an allusion to the fact that ballet used to be a part of opera performances). The strictly ordered world of Bach (the music of the second part is based on the Chaconne from “Partita No. 2 for solo violin in D minor.”) is reflected in the choreography based on the fundamental elements of ballet technique. The other sections are set to a piano score by Eva Crossman-Hecht, a Concert Master of the Forsythe’s Company.

Those who considered ballet a frozen form, would have a radical change of beliefs: ballet can be forced to speak in a new way, still using the old alphabet.

It's not often Artifact was performed after the Frankfurt Ballet by other ballet companies. Much more popular was its condensed version – Artifact Suite, created by William Forsythe for the Scottish Ballet in 2004. It is a pure-dance ballet, an abstract work that distills the protocols and principles of classical ballet into a mesmerizing theatrical event. Two couples perform simultaneous dances of breathtaking beauty, full of off-balance extensions and unexpected shifts of weight. To perform this mini-ballet of great importance (wherever it is staged, every time critics with delight and amazement note its stunningly contemporary perspective) is an honor for every troupe, but also a great challenge that requires both courage and excellence.

Edward Clug is much younger than maestro Forsythe (b. 1949). He is forty-five, but thanks to his youthfulness and expansiveness, he appears young for his age. Well, maybe he is not exactly the maestro, but he’s already a candidate for this title. He is smiling with his boyish broad smile, says that he can not believe this, but the fact remains: it's been two years, as his company celebrated the 25th anniversary of his creative activity! In 1991 he joined the ballet company of the Slovenian National Theatre in Maribor, but soon the desire to create choreography won the ambitions of the performer. And this year he marks the twentieth anniversary of his career as a choreographer. Fifteen of them he leads the Maribor Ballet, which is widely known far beyond Slovenia. By the time he was invited to the Bolshoi, Mr. Klug had worked for ballet companies from Australia to Siberia. Although Maribor has not yet become the ballet Mecca, as William Forsythe’s Frankfurt Ballet or John Neumeier’s Hamburg Ballet, it figures prominently on the ballet map.

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A scene from Petrushka. Photo by Elena Fetisova.


Edward Clug:

It is always an amazing experience to work on Stravinsky's score. Music of this composer requires a special approach. You know, it's one thing just to listen to Stravinsky, I don't need to explain what a great pleasure it is for a music lover. But the situation changes dramatically as you start creating a dance. To enjoy the pleasure of these dances and achieve the necessary freedom, you need a deep understanding of what you want to do, a cold math (and the score!) and rehearsals-rehearsals-rehearsals. I don't mean to literally embody the music in dance. It's about reaching the level at which you enter into a dialogue with both components of the ballet – the music itself and the story that it tells.

As far as I know, many people were intrigued by the poster released for our premiere. It depicts giant Russian dolls - matreshkas. This is a visual image of the country where this fairytale action unfolds. However, we aren’t reflecting on its collective character. Our dolls cannot be stripped and reassembled, they are a kind of interior for Charlatan’s puppet theatre or the dwelling of the moor. A doll's house inside a doll. And as these figures are dancing, we hope they will bring a bit of magic to what is happening on stage.

Turning to the main characters, I love the little brave Petrushka, who wants to be a human, not a doll, and is willing to sacrifice his puppet life for that. To make himself feel like a real living human he seeks for love. From a philosophical point of view, the phenomenon of Petrushka uncovers a surprising paradox of today: who is actually a doll – our hero Petrushka, who is dying for love, or those people who are manipulated by their ambitions and illusions of a perfect world that substitutes the reality.

However, I’m not approaching Petrushka as an analyst. I just want to bring that wonderful fairy tale full of joy and emotions back to life.

The premiere series of shows will be held on 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24 of November (starting at 12:00 and 19:00).

The leading artists of the Bolshoi Ballet take part in the performances of Artifact Suite and Petrushka.