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This article originally appeared in the Culture section of Bloomberg News on May 3, 2006.

May 3 (Bloomberg) — Ogled by video cameras, a nerdy fellow complains, in words, about his uncaring rock-star lover. A professor who fancies herself a Catherine Deneuve clone laments, again in words, her failure to seduce a female student. Sixteen agile dancers go about their business largely hidden from view.

With “Kammer/Kammer,” which opened last night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Howard Gilman Opera House, William Forsythe introduced his newly formed company to New York with a work oddly short on choreography.

For those who have followed Forsythe’s successful, if lately turbulent, career in Germany, the choice was baffling. It may be prophetic, indicating Forsythe’s plans for the future.

Created in 2000, “Kammer/Kammer,” pretends to be a real- time recording of a film that is projected on screens throughout the auditorium. Most of the live action takes place concealed behind moveable walls.

Spectators get titillating glimpses of it. Much occurs on king-size mattresses where menages a trois and quatre do their exercises, copulate and brawl. Eventually, this activity escalates into a loud, mean rampage center stage.

Unrelated Couples

The two main characters — inspired by the writing of Douglas A. Martin and Anne Carson — are talkers, not movers. Each the discontented half of two unrelated couples, they dominate the stage.

Their kvetching tends to repeat itself, and the performers – – Dana Caspersen and Antony Rizzi — lack the charisma to interest us in their unlikely plights.

What dancing there is, is advanced Forsythe, meaning ferocious energy twisting and propelling the body every which way. It’s boldly and handsomely performed. Observed on the screens, though, it’s inevitably flatter and more pallid than the live version — and, of course, severely limited by what the camera chooses to see.

The rest of the strategies are simply old hat. Forsythe’s back story is more compelling than this piece.

American born, the 56-year-old choreographer studied at the school of the Joffrey Ballet, then danced with its company.

In 1974, he moved on to the Stuttgart Ballet, where he began to develop his highly charged movement style and innovative repertoire. Admirers claimed that it catapulted classical ballet into the future.

Back to Tutus

Appointed director of the Frankfurt Ballet in 1984, he gradually transformed it from a regional opera-house appendage into a major dance company on the strength of his radical choreography.

After 18 years, the city council, which controlled the company’s funding, had a fit of conservative thinking. It decided it preferred old-fashioned ballet with tutus and stories. It seemed that Forsythe’s contract would not be renewed.

An avalanche of protest from Forsythe enthusiasts followed, giving the municipal officials second thoughts. At this point, the choreographer declared that he no longer wished to associate with such philistines.

The upshot of the tale is that, in 2005, he formed the Forsythe Ballet as a streamlined organization, using many of his old dancers and some of his old repertory, like “Kammer/Kammer.” Though still semi-attached to the Frankfurt opera house, the group has a multicity base and operates on a combination of public and private funds.

Creative Collective

Forsythe plans to run it more as a collective, giving the dancers greater control over both the creative and directorial aspects of their work. He also foresees all kinds of new projects, among them site-specific, sometimes interactive, works and multimedia productions in which film and video will play an increasingly dominant role.

This evolution seems natural and all but unstoppable. Yet, as Forsythe’s imagination grows more and more conceptual, even his fans may wonder if he isn’t moving away from dance, the visceral art, altogether.

© 2006 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

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