They say it’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for. With its bare stage and low-key lighting and sound, with coloured gloves and shoes its sole ostentation, William Forsythe’s A Quiet Evening of Dance (even the title feels reticent) is the opposite of showy. But pay it close attention and it reveals a kind of introverted virtuosity that leaves you dumbstruck.
Act one opens with an intricate duet for Parvaneh Schafarali and Ander Zabala, its small steps and swift swerves as soft, beautiful and exacting as the birdsong on its soundtrack. There follows an astonishing duet by Jill Johnson and Christopher Roman who, accompanied only by the sound of our own hushed coughs and rustles, articulate detailed sequences of moves built on the intersection between the idealised geometries of ballet (pointed foot, angled leg) and the anatomical realities of the body: the pivots, swivels and folds of shoulder, hip, knee or elbow. Undramatised yet utterly fascinating, it feels like a choreographic secret, offered freely, without explanation.
Soft sound returns, Morton Feldman’s atonal plinks forming a sparse background to more idiosyncratic danced episodes; one solo keeping the arms and hands close to the face, another showing, without fuss or flash, just how extraordinary b-boy Rauf “RubberLegz” Yasit earned his nickname.
Act one ends with a reprise of a 2015 duet, to birdsong again, performed by Brigel Gjoka and Riley Watts. Beginning casually enough, it builds towards convoluted-yet-always-clear spins, skitters and knots, the two dancers echoing each other as if giving different expression to the same underlying dance.
Act two is a consummately crafted suite of dances, each ending quietly rather than climactically, and all beautifully phrased to courtly music by Jean-Philippe Rameau. There’s a gentle theatricality. Johnson and Roman come across as a couple, she preoccupied, he rather particular. There’s humour in Yasit’s lock-limbed, floor-bound interruption of an elegantly upright duet; sadness elsewhere, with bodies weighted as if by inner burdens.
Though style, staging and effect are now far more conventional, we can almost see through these surfaces to the strange, spare structures of act one, lying beneath like a choreographic skeleton. It has been a rare and revelatory evening.