William Forsythe

Black and white portrait of William Forsythe
Year of birth, place
1949, New York, United States
lives and works in
United States
Role at the ZKM
Guest Artist, in the archives
Institute / Department
Institute for Visual Media

William Forsythe, dancer and choreographer of American origin, is one of the most renowned choreographers worldwide. His aesthetic interest is in the questioning and reflection of dance as a stage art. As artistic director of Ballett Frankfurt since 1984, he has developed a highly complex dance language that constantly poses new questions to the theater as a place of transformation and imagination. After the dissolution of Ballett Frankfurt in 2004, Forsythe formed a new, independent company, The Forsythe Company, which he directed from 2005 to 2015.

Forsythe’s works developed during this time were performed exclusively by The Forsythe Company, while his earlier pieces are prominently featured in the repertoire of virtually every major ballet company in the world, including the Mariinsky Ballet, New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, Semperoper Ballet Dresden, England’s Royal Ballet and the Paris Opera Ballet

Forsythe has received commissions for architectural and performance installations by architect and artist Daniel Libeskind (Groningen, 1989), ARTANGEL (London, 1997), Creative Time (New York, 2005), and SKD - Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (2013, 2014).  These choreographic objects, as Forsythe calls his installations, include »White Bouncy Castle« (1997), »City of Abstracts« (2000), »Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time No. 2« (2013), »Black Flags« (2014), »Underall« (2017) and »Unsustainables« (2019).

His installation and film works have been presented in numerous museums and exhibitions, including the Whitney Biennial (New York, 1997), Louvre Museum (2006), Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich (2006), Tate Modern (London, 2009), MoMA (New York 2010), Venice Biennale (2005, 2009, 2012, 2014), MMK - Museum für Moderne Kunst (Frankfurt, 2015), 20th. Sydney Biennale (2016), ICA Boston (2011, 2018), Museum Folkwang (2019), and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (2020).

In collaboration with media specialists and educators, Forsythe has developed new approaches to dance documentation, research, and education. His 1994 computer application »Improvisation Technologies: A Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye«, developed with the ZKM | Karlsruhe, is used as a teaching tool by professional companies, dance conservatories, universities, postgraduate architecture programs, and secondary schools worldwide. 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. Synchronous Objects was the pilot project for Forsythe's »Motion Bank«, a research platform focused on the creation and research of online digital scores in collaboration with guest choreographers.

As an educator, Forsythe is regularly invited to lecture and give workshops at universities and cultural institutions.

In 2023, William Forsythe donates his archive to the ZKM.

 Dance studies at Jacksonville University
1973-1980Choreographer of Stuttgart Ballet
1984-2004Artistic Director of Ballett Frankfurt
2004The Forsythe Company, independent ensemble
2005-2015Director The Forsythe Company
Awards (selection):
1988, 1998, 2004Bessie
1992, 1999Laurence Olivier Award
1999Commandeur des Arts et Lettres
1997Federal Cross of Merit 
2002Wexner Prize
2004German Dance Prize
 In the International Critics' Poll, Forsythe was named Choreographer of the Year several times.
2010Golden Lion of the Venice Biennale
2012Samuel H Scripps / American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement
2020German Theater Prize DER FAUST for Lifetime Achievement
Works related to the ZKM:
»Improvisation Technologies«, 1994
»Improvisation Technologies. A Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye«, 1999