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On historical cuffs and blows: Jacobsson & Caley’s “Instantly Forever” incarnates, pleases [By Tracy Danison]

1.InstantlyForever-5©LaurentPhilippe - copie
Ballet de Lorraine, “Instantly Forever” by Petter Jacobsson and Thomas Caley. Photo © Laurent Philippe

The premier of the dance performance Instantly Forever by Petter Jacobsson and Thomas Caley, performed by Ballet de Lorraine, took place Thursday, 7 March 2024, at the Opéra national de Lorraine, place Stanislas, Nancy, France.

Last time I wrote, I was speculating on the sense of the word group “Instantly Forever”, also the title of Thomas Caley’s and Petter Jacobsson’s last piece as chief choreographers for Ballet de Lorraine as a palimpsest of points and lines in time and painted in movement.

What follows is my live experience as far as I can describe it.

A gigantic symphonic crash makes me jump.

The full cast of twenty-two abruptly turn into one hundred faces that face me. Before or after the crash? Not sure.

The floor of the stage is mirror black. 

Four or six or eight long, silver poles, hang from scaffolding above, frame the six hundred dancers as they might for painted wooden horses, Indian elephants or Bakelite autos on an old merry-go-round. There’s one a little like it in Luxembourg Gardens.


On their tee-shirts, the eight hundred wear selfies of themselves.

Each moves according to their penchant. Saturation of people. Groups show out and sort in a slow, wheeling throng.

I notice the music.

2A.InstantlyForever-4©LaurentPhilippe - copieBallet de Lorraine, “Instantly Forever” by Petter Jacobsson and Thomas Caley. Photo © Laurent Philippe

Caley and Jacobsson have chosen for Instantly Stravinsky’s avant garde score Le Sacre du Printemps, made for Nijinsky’s Ballets Russes, which premiered a hundred and 10 years ago, on 29 May 1913. Also, extracts from Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians Pulses Section I and Section II. I see in mind’s eye, from a Lafayette Anticipations catwalk, 15 September 2018, Yuika Hashimoto wheeling Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s Violin Phase rosace. From 1981, it’s De Keersmaeker’s first work. My heart still thumps when I think of it.

Le Sacre is a ritual début performance for dance initiates to this day. At least in France. At least from Béjart.

Ballets Russes’ Le Sacre du Printemps caused a sensation. Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Archduchess Sophie were assassinated exactly a year and 1 month later, 29 June 1914. Which seemed significant then. Sensation rattles on, notably in the sandbagged dressing room windows at Kiev Opera House.

Among other things, Le Sacre evokes people as one species among others, as originators of their desires, as actors of their myths, as victims of all that – Caley, especially, enthuses about Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.

I think, in its resounding way, Le Sacre must be Freud, Jung, Rothko, Rosa Parks, Roe vs Wade and World War III, too.

I look up.

2.InstantlyForever-1©LaurentPhilippe - copie 2Ballet de Lorraine, “Instantly Forever” by Petter Jacobsson and Thomas Caley. Photo © Laurent Philippe

Seeing one thousand in movement, I remember a trailer from the movie of Michael Crichton’s Andromeda Strain. It shows cells under a microscope swaying along in a flicker-flow. It puzzled me then. The 1 thousand dancing are bound by the space around them; what separates them by eye is the boundary of contact …

When I find I am not looking up, I do.

The applause begins. The lights go up…

I come away, touched.

Later, when I scan the program notes during the intermission, I read that the choreographers meant Steve Reich’s repetitive sounds to plunge me “into a perpetual, repetitive and hypnotic motion” that invited me to contemplation.

I’m thinking it’s odd what images of the splashing cascade of sense information we experience sticks to the memory.

If what sticks is so personal and contextual as to be random, what’s all this guff about History, then?

As I’m returning to my seat for a Folia, the next piece on the Ballet’s program, what, with the experience of Instantly Forever in mind and a little champagne, I’m thinking sourly, but not unreasonably, that History as it’s a time line thus far, anyhow, might be, as dear old Ebenezer Scrooge puts it, “a bit of undigested beef”.

That is, History is analogous to the cumulative effect of a rain of cuffs and blows on the head of an autistic kid by a petulant, infernal Father, in spirit, three years old. Each cuff and each blow is a black point or blob of hurt and resentment stitched together by pain and incomprehension. History of points and lines like this would go some way toward explaining Vladimir Putin as a leader, Donald Trump as God’s Messiah, and Israel eyeless in Gaza…  

Dance performers, Ballet de Lorraine

Jonathan Archambault, Aline Aubert, Alexis Baudinet, Malou Bendrimia, Alexis Bourbeau, Charles Dalerci, Inès Depauw, Mila Endeweld, Angela Falk, Nathan Gracia, Inès Hadj-Rabah, Tristan Ihne, Matéo Lagière, Laure Lescoffy, Valérie Ly-Cuong, Andoni Martinez, Afonso Massano, Lorenzo Mattioli, Clarisse Mialet, Elsa Raymond, Elisa Rouchon, Céline Schoefs, Gabin Schoendorf, Lexane Turc, Luc Verbitzky, Mac Twining


In coming months you can catch the Ballet de Lorraine on tour in these venues across France (and Morocco and Italy, too):

26 March, La Rotonde, Thaon-les-Vosges :

Twelve Ton Rose (Trisha Brown)

Static Shot (Maud Le Pladec)

4 and 5 May, Le Hangar Y, Meudon

Discofoot (Petter Jacobsson & Thomas Caley)

23, 24, 25 and 26 May, Opéra national de Lorraine, Nancy

Màlon, new creation & premier (Ayelen Parolin)

Static Shot (Maud Le Pladec)

1 June, CCN d'Aix-en-Provence

Discofoot (Petter Jacobsson & Thomas Caley)

Morocco tour, Instituts Français du Maroc

5 June, Casablanca

6 June, El Jadida

7 June, Rabat

9 June, Meknes

Discofoot (Petter Jacobsson & Thomas Caley)

Festival Freestyle, Paris

22 and 23 June, La Villette,

Discofoot (Petter Jacobsson & Thomas Caley)

Festival de Montpellier Danse

30 JuneDiscofoot (Petter Jacobsson & Thomas Caley), Place de la Comédie

2 and 3 July, Dancefloor (Michèle Murray), Agora

5 July, Soirée Merce Cunningham, Opéra Comédie

CRWDSPCR, RainForest, Sounddance

15 July, Bolzano (Italy) Danza Festival

Sierras, Danses Atmosphériques (Michele di Stefano)

Static Shot (Maud Le Pladec)

28, 29 and 30 July, Le Voyage à Nantes, Le Feydball

Discofoot (Petter Jacobsson & Thomas Caley)



April 05, 2024

March 29, 2024

March 22, 2024

March 07, 2024

March 04, 2024

March 01, 2024

February 23, 2024

February 02, 2024

January 26, 2024

January 22, 2024

January 19, 2024

January 04, 2024

December 15, 2023

November 24, 2023

November 10, 2023

November 03, 2023

October 26, 2023

October 20, 2023

September 14, 2023

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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