William Forsythe was born on 30 December 1949 in New York City. As a child, he was a big fan of Fred Astaire. He studied classical and modern dance at Jacksonville University in Florida, and went on to train at Joffrey Ballet School.
In 1973, John Cranko took him to Germany to dance with the Stuttgarter Ballett, where he became resident choreographer after several years. He started off as a dancer, but later chose to focus on choreography. In 1984, he also became the artistic director of Frankfurter Ballett. He was a dance mentor with the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, and he is one of the artistic directors and teachers of the programme Dance Apprentice Network aCross Europe.
He is also an honorary member of the Laban Centre for Movement and Dance in London, and has an honorary doctorate from the Juilliard School in New York. When Ballett Frankfurt folded, he founded The Forsythe Company.
Forsythe created a movement idiom that is complex and angular, and which stretches the boundaries of physical coordination. He sees dance as a process of abstraction and a form of thought; as a medium through which he can analyse, transform and construct form.
Before starting to choreograph a new work, he first deconstructs classical dance and violates its aesthetic rules. By doing so, he aims to get to the heart of the matter and find a succession of positions that challenges the dancers, disrupting their natural dynamics and making them almost lose their balance. His choreographic ideas have contributed to the most important international art movements of our time; from performance art and visual art to architecture and interactive multimedia.
In order to record his works, Forsythe works with the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design at Ohio State University on the digital library Motion Bank, which is supported by the German Federal Cultural Foundation (Bundeskulturstiftung).
In his will, Forsythe has stated that his work may no longer be performed after his death.