Haglund never saw John Logan's Broadway play "Red" – the production about artist Mark Rothko and his murals for the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York, but wishes he had. Nor has he ever been to the Four Seasons Restaurant for anything other than one overpriced lunch, and wishes he hadn't. But it only takes a quick glance at any of Rothko's abstract expressionist paintings to see that they were the work of a complicated mind. Last night at Fall for Dance Tero Saarinen performed Man in a Room by Carolyn Carlson which was inspired by the paintings of Rothko, who committed suicide in 1970.
Unraveling is a good theme for choreography – unraveling of a mind, unraveling of a relationship, unraveling of society. There's a beginning with opportunity for foreshadowing. There's the chaos in the middle. And then there is the end. Saarinen explored an unraveling artist's high anxiety through movement and theater to riveting effect using a fascinating score compilation of Gavin Bryars' A Man in a Room, Gambling and Apocalyptica. Bryars' compositions have inspired Lar Lubovitch's choreography with great success most notably the beautiful impressionistic ballet Meadow.
Saarinen moved chaotically about the stage that included an artist's work bench on which tubes of paint and folded clothing were neatly arranged. He stumbled, jumped, flailed, looked out at the audience with convincing crazed expressions. The score included the accented voice of a man who was offering instructions on how a professional gambler cheats at cards – how to deal oneself an extra card, how to dispose of it, how to hide cards. The voice explained that the gambler's thrill was not in the winning but in the game of chance itself. Saarinen picked up a tube of paint, put a dab on his fingers, and began smearing his body with strokes of paint while reacting to the sensation of each "brushstroke" with a range of expressions perhaps suggesting that this particular artist's drive was for the sensation that comes from the act of painting as opposed to the development of a finished piece of art. The performance ended when a row of lights at the back of the stage was turned onto the audience while Saarinen's form slowly came to the edge of the stage and then retreated back into the lights. A very stirring performance - one which Haglund intends to see again tonight.
The second offering on the program was William Forsythe's The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude by the Dresden Semperoper Ballett. The piece was described in the Playbill as a perfect stylistic exercise in all aspects of neo-classical ballet. Well, mostly - just omit perfect and all. It was very well danced by some very competent technicians. However, Schubert's Allegro Vivace Symphony No. 8 in C major is a huge orchestrated offering that needs more than just five dancers on the stage – especially when it's so freakin' loud. But the flat tutus were funky and interesting.
ABT's offering at Fall for Dance this year was Frederick Ashton's Thais Pas de Deux performed by Hee Seo and Jared Matthews – a terrific choice. Haglund was surprised by the extent to which this little ballet pulled in the attention and appreciation of the mostly non-ballet crowd. The dancers gave a first rate performance. Watching these two emerge as artists this past year has been joyful for Haglund to witness.
Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, A Dance Company closed the evening with Grace, one of Brown's rousing compositions which he originally created for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to music by Duke Ellington, Roy Davis Jr, and Fela Anikulapo Kuti. It's a little long but that problem is mitigated by the infectious energy of its handsome dancers. Haglund looks forward to seeing it again tonight.
Haglund bestows this BCBGeneration abstract expressionist beauty of a Pump Bump Award on Man in a Room as performed by Tero Saarinen: