William Forsythe: A Quiet Evening of Dance

OCT 11 – 25, 2019
Inventive choreographic works set to the sounds of breath and music

“Dance … that leaves audiences elevated, energized, overcome …”

“It is the kind of dance we rarely see anymore, one that leaves audiences elevated, energized, overcome by the sheer pleasure of movement and music.”

The New Yorker

About this commission

Groundbreaking choreographer William Forsythe presents a vivid combination of new and existing work, performed by seven of Forsythe’s most trusted collaborators, in The Shed’s intimate Griffin Theater. The intricate phrasing of the dancers’ breath is the primary sound accompanying Forsythe’s choreography, which draws on the geometric origins of classical ballet and ranges from sparse analytic condensation to baroque-inspired counterpoint. The result is a new production that, like an evening of chamber music, feels designed to be listened to. A Quiet Evening of Dance includes two newly commissioned works, Epilogue and Seventeen/Twenty-One; two reimagined repertory works, Dialogue (DUO2015) and Catalogue (Second Edition); and Prologue, an excerpt in Act One of Seventeen/Twenty One.

A Quiet Evening of Dance is a Sadler’s Wells, London, production co-commissioned by The Shed; Théâtre de la Ville-Paris, Théâtre du Châtelet and Festival d’Automne à Paris; Festival Montpellier Danse 2019; Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg; Onassis Cultural Centre-Athens; and deSingel international arts campus (Antwerp). Winner of the FEDORA - VAN CLEEF & ARPELS Prize for Ballet 2018. First performed at Sadler’s Wells on October 4, 2018.

Please note: No late seating until intermission, please arrive early.

In The Works

An Interview with William Forsythe

William Forsythe has pushed the boundaries of ballet over the course of a nearly five-decade career. In A Quiet Evening of Dance, the intricate phrasing of the dancers’ breath is the primary sound accompanying Forsythe’s choreography, which draws on the geometric origins of classical ballet. Here, the groundbreaking choreographer describes the innovation specific to the choreography in A Quiet Evening of Dance.

What draws you to the variety of sources in your choreography—from classical ballet to hip hop—especially as they shaped A Quiet Evening of Dance?

I’m usually drawn to the formal elements of a practice and am interested in underlying, correlative facets that support ostensibly disparate practices.

What effect does the minimal musical accompaniment of A Quiet Evening of Dance have on your choreography? What is the origin of the different sounds in this production?

I’ve focused on the quality of attention in a number of different works for more than 25 years. In this program, the first act’s subtraction of sound contributes to the construction of a community of sensitive listeners. For myself, I find the sensation of dancing best described as a form of attention most akin to careful listening. As dancing does actually make noise in the process of its production, I find adjusting the levels of those acoustic artifacts modifies the spectator’s sense of proximity to the event at hand. This seems to produce a collective intimacy and focus that is of a different texture than when music is the dominant organizational referent. That does not mean that there is an a-musicality to the events, but rather a recognition arises out of the movements that the body is ultimately the most musical of instruments. The use of birdsong is a reflection on the inherently contrapuntal quality of natural sounds.

A Quiet Evening of Dance includes new work but also earlier pieces that you’ve revisited to present in new ways. What interests you in reworking old pieces?

The need to work on a piece for 20 years, as in the case of DUO, has to do with the evolution of dancers. Each successive generation bears testament to the culture in which they developed, and constant cultural shift has a wide range of effects on how artists listen to the products of their practice.

What role do the dancers play in your process of creating new work?

The dancer is absolutely everything.

What is shared between dance and other forms of art making?

If one understands choreography to be a sophisticated form of concept organization, it then holds the possibility of resonating with organizations of a similar sophistication that utilized a different medium to express their subject.

What changes in a dance production when it travels from one venue to another?

In my experience dance is always affected by proximity and the proportions of the performing volume. The proportions frame the action very uniquely and can unexpectedly amplify or shrink different facets of a production. This always results in the production team adapting the quantities and qualities to the situation at hand.

Creative Team

A portrait of William Forsythe
© Dominik Mentzos.
William Forsythe
William Forsythe
William Forsythe, active in the field of choreography for over 45 years, is acknowledged for migrating the practice of ballet from classical repertoire to a diverse range of discursive platforms. Forsythe’s deep interest in the fundamental principles of composition has led him to produce a wide range of projects including visual arts installations, films, and web-based knowledge creation. He was appointed resident choreographer of the Stuttgart Ballet in 1976. In 1984, he began a 20-year tenure as director of the Ballet Frankfurt after which he founded and directed the Forsythe Company until 2015. While his balletic works are featured in the repertoire of every major ballet company in the world, he consistently focuses on works of varying scale that model his continued interest in the economies of public presentation.
Tanja Rühl
Tanja Rühl is a freelance lighting designer and lighting supervisor. She was born and resides in Germany. In 1999, she began her theatrical engineering apprenticeship at Frankfurt Opera House. In 2002, after completion of the apprenticeship with distinction, Rühl joined Ballet Frankfurt under the artistic direction of William Forsythe as assistant to the lighting supervisor. She was then appointed lighting supervisor with the newly founded Forsythe Company in 2005. In 2006, she completed her master of theatrical engineering majoring in lighting. Since 2007, Rühl has acted as the company’s lighting designer, mostly with her mentor Forsythe as well as with her colleague in the company’s lighting department. As a member of Forsythe Productions, Rühl acts as technical and design consultant, collaborating with ballet and dance companies in matters of Forsythe works. Since 2014, she has worked as a full-time freelance lighting designer, collaborating with choreographers, companies, and artists around the globe. As a designer she is also still working with Forsythe on his new works and on recreations of his existing repertoire. Productions for which she has created the original design have been performed at Palais Garnier, Paris; Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York; Tate Modern, London; Kawasaki Arts Center, Japan; Ruhrtriennale Jahrunderthalle, Bochum; and Taichung National Theater, Taiwan.
Dorothee Merg
Dorothee Merg was born in Frankfurt, Germany. She started her tailoring apprenticeship in 1985. After successfully completing the apprenticeship in 1988, she began to work for film and television. Merg joined the Ballet Frankfurt, led by William Forsythe, in 1989. In 2005, she joined The Forsythe Company as head of costume, during which time she completed several designs for Forsythe’s works. She has also designed costumes for numerous independent ballet and theater projects.
Niels Lanz
In 1992, Niels Lanz joined the sound department of Ballet Frankfurt as a company member and had the opportunity to further develop his skills under William Forsythe on several productions, including Eidos: Telos, Endless House, Kammer/Kammer, and Decreation. In the late 90s, he began to create electronic music for dance, producing the music for David Dawson’s The Grey Area and 00:00 for Dutch National Ballet. Since 2004, he has worked as sound and video designer for The Forsythe Company and won the renowned New York Bessie Award for the composition of Three Atmospheric Studies in 2007. Since 2012, he has worked as a freelance sound designer for various theater productions.


Brigel Gjoka
Brigel Gjoka, born and trained in Albania, pursued his studies in Cannes, France, working as a choreographer, dance teacher, and professional stage dancer. Since 2014, he is artistic director of Art Factory International Contemporary Dance Platform based in Bologna, Italy. He has worked with the Ballet du Rhin, Staats Theater Mainz, Netherlands Dance Theater, and the Forsythe Company. For the last decade, he has traveled around the globe performing in renowned dance festivals, creating new projects for dance companies and festivals, and teaching dance workshops. In 2016, he was part of the farewell world tour of Sylvie Guillem, performing DUO2015 by William Forsythe, with whom he has collaborated closely for nine years. Gjoka is currently working on a new production co-choreographed with Rauf ‘Rubberlegz’ Yasit, in collaboration with Forsythe, which will premiere in November 2019.
Jill Johnson
A 34-year veteran of the dance field, Jill Johnson choreographs for film, television, and stage. Johnson has danced in over 50 tours on five continents, was a soloist with the National Ballet of Canada, and principal dancer in William Forsythe’s Ballet Frankfurt. For two decades, Johnson has staged Forsythe’s work with dance companies worldwide. She has served on the faculty and choreographed work for Princeton University, Columbia University, the New School, the Juilliard School, and NYU. Currently, she is director of dance, faculty, and founder/artistic director of the Harvard Dance Project at Harvard University where she has created 11 original works. Recent projects include giving the commencement address at Canada’s National Ballet School, and collaborations with Eve Ensler/American Repertory Theater, PBS: Poetry in America, and the Louvre Musee des Arts Decoratif in Paris.
Christopher Roman
Christopher Roman began his formal training at the School of Cleveland Ballet, where he also danced as an apprentice, and later studied at the School of American Ballet in New York City. He joined the ranks of the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle and has worked as a soloist and principal with Edward Villella’s Miami City Ballet, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, the Pennsylvania Ballet, and Ballet Frankfurt, where he began his long-term artistic relationship with William Forsythe. He stages and is a choreographic assistant for the works of Forsythe, was associate artistic director of the Forsythe Company, and is a trustee for the Foundation Forsythe. From 2015 to 2018, he was a dancer and artistic director of the Dance on Ensemble, First Edition. He received the 2009 DER FAUST Theaterpreis for Best Dance Performer and is curator and organizer of the Hollins University MFA in Dance’s European Study Program, based in Berlin. In 2019, Roman founded the SALTco. with the mission to illuminate the worth, contribution, and role of the dancer.
Parvaneh Scharafali
Parvaneh Scharafali received her formal training in classical ballet and contemporary dance at the school of the Hamburg Ballet. At the age of 17 she became a member of the Hamburg Ballet John Neumeier. In 2001, she joined Netherlands Dance Theater 2, and was invited to join Netherlands Dance Theater 1, where she collaborated and performed as a principal in important choreographic works, most notably in Jiri Kylian’s Tar and Feathers, ‘27’52, and works by Crystal Pite, Ohad Naharin, Hans van Manen, amongst others. In 2006, Scharafali won the Golden Swan for best dancer. She was also nominated for a Golden Swan for her performance in William Forsythe’s DUO. In 2008, she became a member of the Forsythe Company where she worked closely with Forsythe. Scharafali is now working as a freelance performer and teacher worldwide.
Riley Watts
Riley Watts is a dance artist based in Portland, Maine. He began his training in competitive gymnastics in Bangor and later in classical ballet at Thomas School of Dance under Ivy Forrest. He studied dance at the Walnut Hill School for the Arts and received a BFA in dance from the Juilliard School where he won a Princess Grace Award. He has danced with NDT2, Bern Ballet, Cedar Lake, and with William Forsythe since 2010. In 2015, he performed Forsythe’s DUO2015 with Brigel Gjoka on Sylvie Guillem’s Life in Progress tour, for which they were named contemporary dancers of the year by the Leonide Massine-Positano Prize, Italy. In addition to teaching, choreographing, and creating sculpture- and video-based performance art, Watts is an advocate for the arts in Maine where he is the creator of Portland Dance Month.
Rauf ‘RubberLegz’ Yasit
Rauf ‘RubberLegz’ Yasit is a Los Angeles-based dancer and visual artist with Kurdish roots who was born and raised in Celle, Germany. He has worked with William Forsythe, Arashi, Red Bull, National Opera of Paris, LACMA, Flying Steps, Moderat, Sonos, Seat, Tumi, Sony, WAD, HP, Pandora, and others. RubberLegz has a style that defies categorization. He has created his own unique movement language taken from b-boying that he has developed over a number of years. He received his diploma in 3-D visualization and animation in Switzerland and has years of experience working in professional design agencies as a visual artist.
Ander Zabala
Ander Zabala began his dance education in Spain with Ion Beitia, continuing at Maurice Bejart’s school and John Neumeier’s school before finishing his studies at Rosella Hightower’s school in Cannes, where he was awarded the Prix Serge Lifar 1991. He danced as a soloist with the CCNT-Jean Christophe Maillot, the Birmingham Royal Ballet, and as a principal dancer with the Ballet Frankfurt and the Forsythe Company, performing worldwide. He has worked closely with William Forsythe since 1992, participating in the creation of many works. He stages and is a choreographic assistant for the works of Forsythe. From 2015 until 2018, Zabala worked as a ballet master with the Netherlands Dance Theater, assisting choreographers Crystal Pite and Marco Goecke. He teaches ballet, improvisation technologies, seminars, and master classes internationally including at Roehampton University, Frankfurt University of Performing Arts, and the Goethe University for Sport Science.

Location and dates

This event takes place in The Griffin Theater.

Tuesday – Saturday at 7:30 pm
Sunday at 3 pm

Please note:
There is no performance on October 17.


  • Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes
  • No late seating until intermission, please arrive early

Thank you to our partners

Support for A Quiet Evening of Dance is provided in part by