Simone Forti speaking at Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, Los Angeles.
Simone Forti (born 1935) is an American postmodern choreographer and musician. Throughout her career she became known for a style of dancing and choreography that was largely based on basic everyday movements, such as games and children's playground activities, and improvisation. She danced with many well known choreographers representing various styles of dance. Some of these include Anna Halprin, Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham, Trisha Brown and Robert Whitman. In addition to dancing, she has written a book, multiple articles and won several awards. Musically she collaborated with avante-garde composers and performers including La Monte Young, Richard Maxfield, Charlemagne Palestine, Terry Riley, and Yoko Ono.
Background and career
Simone Forti was born in Florence, Italy in 1935. In the early 1940s, her Jewish family moved to the United States to escape persecution. She grew up in Los Angeles, where she attended Reed College. However, she then dropped out and moved with her husband, Robert Morris, to San Francisco in 1956 where she trained with Anna Halprin. Although she started dancing at the late age of 21, she found a niche there and continued to dance with Halprin and the "Dancer’s Workshop". In 1959 she moved to New York with Morris and began to study with Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham but neither of these styles matched her interests. During this time, she taught at a nursery school where she developed a fascination with the movement of children. In the fall of 1960, she joined a Cunningham studio composition class led by Robert Dunn which was geared towards exploration and improvisation. At this point, she began to create her own independent choreography. That Christmas Robert Whitman invited her to perform at the Reuben Gallery where she presented Rollers and See-Saw. She then created Huddle which is now said to be a "seminal work and an ancestor to the improvisation genre of the 70’s known for naturalness and inevitability of her movement patterns and own performance style".
From 1962 to 1966 Forti was married to Robert Whitman and collaborated with him on his happenings. Some of these include Hole, Flower, Night Time sky, water, prune/flat. During this time she created no independent choreography. Once divorced, she began to create her own choreography again but with a focus on sound rather than movement.
In 1968, she performed in Rome and began to study animal movements. This resulted in her working in Turin with experimental theatre group, "The Zoo". After attending the "Festival of Music, Dance, Explosions, and Flight" and touring with Woodstock for a year starting in the summer of 1969, she returned to New York and studied singing with Pandit Pran Nath. Eventually she returned to California "where she occasionally substituted for Allen Kaprow at the California Institute of the Arts, leading open dance sessions called 'Open Gardenia'". In 1974 her book, Handbook in Motion, was published. Over the years she has taught and performed in the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan, Austria, and Venezuela.
Dance style and choreography
Forti’s style of dance comes from an emphasis on the body as a means of self-expression. Her movement explores natural and sometimes day to day or pedestrian movements. Forti presented some of her earliest works in art galleries in New York and at Yoko Ono’s loft where the audience was able to walk around the dancers who were still enough to resemble sculpture. This innovative use of space allowed her work to be viewed as art, not just dance. Many times she would create choreography where the dancer was manipulated from an outside source instead of creating the movement themselves. This "chance choreography" fits a common procedure associated with post modern choreographers like herself. Some of her greatest influences came from observations of children and animals because of her objection to the "isolated, fragmented, and artificial movements" in many formal techniques of the day. Like other post modern choreographers she incorporated the themes of chance procedure, rules/games, improvisation, speaking/singing, and scores.
Forti was interested in "the simple presymbolic games of children, as well as the activities of animals and plants" to "provide her with movement material that when performed on the adult body makes it a 'defamiliarized' object". See-Saw and Rollers are both examples of this. In Rollers the dancers sat in shallow wooden boxes on wheels attached to three cords that were then pulled by spectators. The result of dances like this differed greatly from performance to performance because of the nature of the choreography. Another postmodern characteristic is seen in Huddle because of the improvisation necessary for the piece. In this dance, a group of dancers huddles in closely while one dancer climbs over the group to the other side in no preordained fashion. There is also no order in which the dancers go, therefore, it is based on the feeling of the group as a whole. As the dancer moves out to go, the remaining group must be cognizant and feel the difference then move in to allow the dancer to climb over. Not all of her pieces were focused on dance, in Accompaniment for La Monte’s "2 Sounds", the emphasis is primarily on the music. The only movement comes the winding and unwinding of a dancer standing in a large loop suspended from the ceiling. The “dancing” stops long before the music.
Awards and achievements
- 1995 — Dance Theater Workshop’s New York Dance and Performance Award (Bessie) for sustained achievement.
- 2004 — Lester Horton Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Dance Recourse Center of Los Angeles.
- 2006 — Guggenheim Fellowship.
- Slant Board
- Accompaniment for La Monte's "2 Sounds"
- From Instructions
- Face Tunes
- Elevation Tune No. 2
- Throat Dance
- Illuminations; performed with Charlemagne Palestine
- The Zero
- Big Room
- Red Green
- Fan Dance
- Home Base
- Jackdaw Songs
- To Be Continued
- Still Life
Books and articles
- "Theater and Engineering-An Experiment". Artforum 5. February 1967.
- Handbook in Motion. New York: New York University Press. 1974.
- "Dancing at the Fence". Avalanche. December 1974.
- "Bicycles". Dance Scope. Fall 1978.
- Banes, Sally (1993). Greenwich Village 1963: Avant-Garde Performance and the Effervescent Body. Duke University Press Books. p. 142. ISBN 978-0-8223-1391-5.
- Forti (1974), pp. 35-36.
- Mann (1998), p. 285.
- Mann (1998), p. 283.
- Banes, Sally (1987). Terpsichore in Sneakers: Post-Modern Dance. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 0819561606.
- Forti (1974), p. 44.
- Forti (1974), p. 59.
- "Simone Forti". Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance. University of California, Los Angeles. Retrieved 2015-04-08.
- Forti, Simone (1974). Handbook in Motion. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 0814725570.
- Mann, Lisa Anderson (1998). "Simone Forti". In Benbow-Pfalzgraf, Taryn. International Dictionary of Modern Dance. Detroit: St. James Press. ISBN 978-1558623590.
- Seibert, Brian (April 15, 2014). "Italian Touch, With a Taste of Cognac: Simone Forti and Charlemagne Palestine Reunite at MoMA". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-04-08.
- Steffen, Patrick (January 2012). "Forti On All Fours: a talk with Simone Forti". Contact Quarterly. Retrieved 2015-04-08.