Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time, a choreographic work by William Forsythe, presented this past week at the Rand Hall Annex. The piece envisions how blind French political activist and resistance fighter Jacques Lusseyran described the intricate workings of his mental space from where sprung thoughts and ideas.
I went to see the performance this past Thursday on its last day of viewing. From the cement ceiling of the large room hung a multitude of delicate pendulums, 20 inches apart, covering the entire area — small, silver cones suspended a short distance over the floor on a white thin rope. That Thursday happened to be exceedingly cloudy and rainy, so from my weather-affected perspective the room appeared to be filled with a profusion of raindrops frozen in time.
William Forsythe is a native New Yorker who currently resides in Frankfurt, Germany. He founded his own company in 2005, The Forsythe Company. For all the people who are as clueless as me when it comes to the intricate workings of ballet, he is viewed as the punk ass rebel of the ballet world. Forsythe’s work is known for deconstructing standard ballet practices and redefining the boundaries of the art. What results leans towards modern dance, if anything. He has produced a fair number of installation pieces over the years and his love for this art is clear in Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time.
Entering the seemingly vast room, you need to navigate your way along the edges of the maze created by the pendulums to find a seat. A lone male dancer, Brock Labrenz, is standing in the center of the expanse. His uniform is non-descript: just a simple blue t-shirt, grey pants and sneakers. As the clock strikes three, the performance begins. He starts off static, in one location, slowly unfurling his body. His moves resemble those of a puppet. I peek above to look for the domineering hands of the puppeteer but instead, all I see are masses of ropes. As time goes on, the performer starts to move around the silver cylinders, never touching them. The only sounds that punctured the silence are the clanging and clicking of the cylinders as well as the heaves and sighs of the dancer.
The only setback to this choreographic piece is its inaccessibility to be viewed from every angle. Such power would have pushed this exhibition from awesome to truly exceptional. The pendulums took up every inch of the available space in the room, driving the audience to observe the performance from one fixed position. The room also lacked enough seating for the continuous trickle of people that showed up to see Forsythe’s work. Thus, many people had to occupy the (very) limited space in the corners of the room.
After a few minutes of dancing, the dancer takes one of the ropes in his hands and lets it go. Once he does that, the cylinder starts swinging in slow lazy circles. He exhibits great control over his muscles, not only moving around the cylinders but also interacting with his environment. The dancer experiments with his surroundings, trying different things with the instruments all around him. At one point, he puts two of the cylinders in his pockets; at another moment he twists two ropes together, letting them unravel. He explores all available options to him and tests the limits. When he’s accomplished all that can be done with his eyes open for the time being, he closes them alluding to the sightless Jacques Lusseyran.
He tries to maneuver blindly through the labyrinth of ropes, bumping into his surroundings. In my mind, the area has transformed into Lusseyran’s internal space. The actor might only be confined in one area, yet his actions are apparent all throughout the entire room. When he moves a row of pendulums in one area and dances to another section of the room, his actions reverberate all around the expanse. When he lies down in the middle of the room, pendulums are swinging from one corner of the room to the other. He is at once everywhere and nowhere.