Established in 1963, Pennsylvania Ballet has extended its important Balanchine-based repertoire by presenting new works by a variety of contemporary choreographers. In 2012, with Center support, the ballet presented Artifact Suite by William Forsythe, staged by three former Forsythe dancers. This repertory acquisition was accompanied by a symposium with Forsythe, his dramaturge Freya Vass-Rhee, dance writer Jennifer Homans, and project specialist Linda Caruso Haviland. The Forsythe project raised company awareness of the significance of documentation and the development of an archive of research that can continue the life of a particular dance beyond its performance.
Pennsylvania Ballet acquired and presented Artifact Suite, its third work in three years by William Forsythe, a choreographer noted for propelling ballet from a strictly classical dance form to a dynamic, 21st-century art. Featuring 29 dancers in a 45-minute ballet, Forsythe's signature choreography in Artifact Suite pushes dancers beyond their perceived physical limits, demanding sharp timing, precise syncopation, and coordination. Forsythe keeps the work fresh by making changes to the choreography every time a new company performs it. "There is always something to improve, some craftsmanship to carry out, and new solutions to discover," he says.
Three of the choreographer's former dancers—Jodie Gates, Noah Gelber, and Laura Graham—staged Artifact Suite over four weeks of rehearsal. Forsythe visited Philadelphia to work with the dancers in advance of the final performances in June 2013. A public symposium was held, prior to the performances, moderated by Linda Caruso Haviland, director of dance at Bryn Mawr College, and featured Forsythe; Freya Vass-Rhee, dramaturge of the Forsythe Company; and Jennifer Homans, author of Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet.