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 Awardon Man in a Room as performed by Tero Saarinen:
This afternoon’s Fall for Dance performance had some of the most diverse programming Haglund has seen inside a theater. Diverse does not always equate with good, however, but generally one is willing to sit through what one doesn’t care for in order to get to the part of the program that one plopped down cash for.
In the case of this afternoon, Haglund did not plop down any cash at all. His friend, Azlan, hosted a group not only for the performance but for a delicious lunch – feast, really – at Lili’s 57. It was a most delightful afternoon among old friends and new acquaintances.
Puppeteer Basil Twist's group was up first with his Petrushka Suite to Stravinsky’s score with movement based on the famous Fokine ballet. In the ballet, Fokine’s choreography brilliantly persuaded us that the dancers were puppets with big hearts and dark hearts, frustrations, passions, and jealousies. Twist presented us with actual puppets with several visible puppeteers behind each one. Wearing costumes true to the original Fokine production, the puppets, themselves, convinced us of their hearts and passions, and elicited considerable empathy from the audience. A collective sad and very sincere sigh was heard from the audience when the moor stabbed Petrushka who then died – dramatically. These puppets were really cute, and the invitation to fall into their fantasy was hard to resist.
Next up was Monica Bill Barnes & Company with dancers Anna Bass, Monica Bill Barnes and Deborah Lohse. Their offering entitled “I feel like” tried to capitalize on the oddness of the performers’ appearances to achieve physical comedy. In some instances, it succeeded. In her initial solo, Ms. Lohse, a lanky dancer with large features and a cropped reddish haircut, contorted her face as comedienne Carol Burnett might have been expected to, and then the other two dancers followed suit during their duet to a James Brown recording. All three wore what appeared to be wool skirts and sweaters that were popular schoolwear decades ago. They frequently lifted up their sweaters to reveal their navels or pulled down a sleeve to reveal a shoulder. It all represented the common misunderstanding among so many small modern dance companies that any and every creative act is art worth putting on a stage and asking people to pay money to see.
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo'sGo for Barocco, a Balanchine parody by Peter Anastos, is really one of the Trocks’ tamer works. The program choice was probably a good one considering that so much of the audience had been drawn to this afternoon’s performance by the appearance of DanceBrazil, a group of hot, strutting Capoeira performers. The Trocks breezed through the challenging choreography in their size 13 pointe shoes with pecs pushing over the tops of their leotards. Compliments to Mme. Vanya Verikosa and Mme. Katerina Bychkova for their harmonious and hilarious pas de deux.
DanceBrazil put on an unbelievable display of Capoeira martial arts to music. The performers were truly hot in some very hot red-orange Capoeira pants. Okay, not really dance, but definitely performance. They are going to be at the Joyce Theater March 23 – April 4, 2010, but the Spring season is not up on the Joyce website calendar yet.
Haglund awards this hot leopard Pump Bump for this afternoon’s offerings:
City Center’s Fall for Dance kicked off its 10 day season last evening with a $10 sampler of goodies designed to appeal to a variety of dance palates. But this season has also been carefully infused with choreography and derivatives from Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes for whom the world is celebrating the centennial of its invasion of the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris where bold innovation imbedded with strong craft and creative brilliance began a revolution in the world of ballet.
Last evening opened with the presentation of the 58th Annual Capezio Dance Award to Arlene Shuler, City Center’s President & CEO. Edward Villella flew up from Miami to make the presentation. He observed how Shuler’s extraordinary career had come full circle – from a 13 year old performer on the City Center stage in Balanchine’s Nutcracker to a member of the City Center Joffrey Ballet to Columbia Law School to the NEA to Lincoln Center and back to the City Center as its chief executive. Shuler, noting that she had indeed worn Capezio pointe shoes as a performer, choked with emotion as she recalled and thanked the late Robert Joffrey – “He was my teacher,” she said. He was also the ballet world’s champion of Ballets Russes era restorations and had a passion for details and historical accuracy for which we can all be grateful.
The first performance on the program was the Boston Ballet in Nijinsky’s Afternoon of a Faun. Altankhuyag Dugaraa was the faun who awakes to see a bevy of nymphs led by Lia Cirio. The nymphs dance around the faun and arouse him and eventually leave behind a scarf which the faun then uses in the self-gratification process. Nijinsky’s choreography references Greek bas-relief with torsos front, arms at right angles, and faces in profiles. The brilliance is in how Nijinsky imagined that these characters would move if brought to life from their static poses. They walked with bent knees and exaggerated heel to toe movement. The nymphs’ hands were delicately curled when joined with one another. Last night’s performance had a museum quality and textbookish tint to it. The faun was about as erotic as an 8 week old kitten. Haglund thinks that the problem with presenting Afternoon of a Faun is always the same problem – it needs Nijinsky.
The Paul Taylor Dance Company gave a spirited performance of Offenbach Overtures. Michael Trusnovec, Sean Mahoney, Robert Kleinendorst, and Jeffrey Smith were especially funny in the American Eagle Waltz..
Batsheva Dance Company’s Iyar Elezra and Bobbi Smith performed Ohad Naharin’s B/olero to Isao Tomita’s synthesizer version of Ravel’s Bolero. Tomita has been described as pio-neering, but how much pioneering is involved when you take other people’s creative brilliance and skilled work product and just change it to accommodate your own talents? It’s kind of like the Manhattan Transfer’s version of basic Christmas carols - eh. Naharin’s choreography was his stereotypical fast changing, start-stop, just do anything that comes to mind vocabulary. But the dancers did it very well, and the audience appreciated their explosive energy and responded with loud woo-whos.
Savion Glover closed the evening with a rousing tap jam with jazz quartet on stage entitled The StaRz and StRiPes 4EvEr for NoW. The musicians, The OTHeRz, each had extended solos before Glover came out and masterfully tap-conducted everyone. Then they all performed with additional tappers Marshall Davis, Jr. and Cartier Williams in a bring-the-house-down choreographed finale. Pianist Tommy James set Savion’s feet on fire throughout the piece, and for that, Haglund awards this Pump Bump – the Golden Ann Miller: