2010 Honorary Doctorate
William Forsythe is recognised as one of the world’s foremost choreographers, and his work is celebrated for reorienting the practice of ballet from its identification with classical repertoire to a dynamic 21st-century art form.
Raised and principally trained in New York, he arrived on the European dance scene in his early 20s as a dancer, and eventually became resident choreographer of the Stuttgart Ballet. In 1984, he began a 20-year tenure as director of the Frankfurt Ballet, where he created such ground breaking works as Artifact (1984), Impressing the Czar (1988), Enemy in the Figure (1989), Limb’s Theorem (1990), The Loss of Small Detail (1991), Eidos:Telos (1995), Kammer/Kammer (2000), and Decreation (2003). Many of his pieces are prominently featured in the repertoire of virtually every major ballet company in the world, including the Kirov Ballet, the New York City Ballet, the National Ballet of Canada, the Royal Ballet, and the Paris Opera Ballet.
After the closure of Frankfurt Ballet in 2004, Forsythe established a new, more independent ensemble - The Forsythe Company - which is based in Dresden and Frankfurt am Main, and maintains an extensive international touring schedule. His most recent creations are developed and performed exclusively by the new company, and include Three Atmospheric Studies (2005), You made me a monster (2005), Heterotopia (2006), The Defenders (2007), and I Don’t Believe in Outer Space (2008).
Forsythe’s choreographic thinking has engaged with, and contributed to, the most significant international artistic currents of our time, from performance and visual arts to architecture and interactive multimedia. His installation and film works have been presented in numerous museums and exhibitions, including the Whitney Biennial, New York; the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich; 21_21 Design Sight, Tokyo; Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio; the Venice Biennale; and the Hayward Gallery, London.
In 1994, Forsythe virtually reinvented the teaching of dance with his pioneering and award-winning computer application Improvisation Technologies: A Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye. 2009 marked the launch of Synchronous Objects for One Flat Thing, reproduced, a digital online score developed with The Ohio State University that reveals the organizational principles of the choreography and demonstrates their possible application within other disciplines. Forsythe is regularly invited to lecture and give workshops at major universities and cultural institutions internationally.
Forsythe’s choreography and his companies’ performances have won the most prestigious awards the field has to offer, such as the New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Awards (1988, 1998, 2004), and the Laurence Olivier Award (1992, 1999). Forsythe himself has been named Commandeur des Arts et Lettres (1999) by the government of France, and has received the German Distinguished Service Cross (1997), the Wexner Prize (2002), and the Golden Lion (2010). In 2002, he was chosen as one of the founding Dance Mentors for The Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. He is also an Honorary Fellow of the Laban Centre for Movement and Dance in London, and holds an Honorary Doctorate from the Juilliard School in New York.