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Contemplating the nothing ahead

The black stones scattered all over the stage of the BAM Opera House —and sometimes stuffed into the pants of William Forsythe’s fluent, anticdancers — turn out not to be stones at all.

The black stones scattered all over the stage of the BAM Opera House — and sometimes stuffed into the pants of William Forsythe’s fluent, antic dancers — turn out not to be stones at all. They’re soft, they bounce. They’re blobs of the gaffer’s tape used to tape down the dance floor, then ripped up and usually thrown away. Forsythe, a New Yorker who’s worked in Germany for decades, has been hoarding them, as he’s hoarded, over a lifetime, fragments of movement, music and other detritus of contemporary culture.

In his 2008 ”I Don’t Believe in Outer Space,” the choreography for 18 movers in casual clothes —hoodies, jeans, tank tops, socks — appears to be utterly random, but is highly structured. The dancers enter and leave through dark archways at the back of the stage, or through a side pathway plastered with cheerful posters. Their frantic activity looks chaotic, but is rendered with absolute precision.

Dana Caspersen, who’s worked with Forsythe since 1988 and is now his wife, spends most of the 70-minute piece speaking into a microphone, while other performers, male and female, lip-synch her words and act them out.

Jerome Robbins mined this teenage landscape in the 20th century; Forsythe, a bolder talent, shoots it through with mime, fighting, a table-tennis game played without a ball and, of course, language.

Fragments of music from Thom Willems’ collage score evoke ’60s jazz, ’70s pop, ’80s disco. The international crew of dancers is capable of anything; here they serve Forsythe’s nostalgic vision, looking back and, startlingly, looking forward to what lies ahead. Which, it appears, is silence, stillness, darkness.

 
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