Friday, October 9, 2009

Grab Bag Friday: Garth Fagan & Romare Bearden

The Family, 1975
, etching and aquatint, Edition 175, 21x26" (image) 22x30" (paper). From Bowdoin College's Art of Romare Bearden exhibit.

I just have to report a little on the dance performance I saw last week because it was phenomenal. Garth Fagan Dance came to campus as part of Bowdoin College's celebration of the Art of Romare Bearden. They performed sections from a piece called "CollageforRomie" that Garth Fagan choreographed based on Romare Bearden's collage work.

I'll admit, I don't know a lot about art and I'd never heard of Romare Bearden before, but this dance piece was such an exquisite tribute that I can't wait to go see the exhibit.

I've been thinking all week about how "CollageforRomie" was such a fascinating reflection on creative work: where an artist gets material, how that material is pieced together, the joy of creation, the complex emotions that are the heart of a project. It was also a brilliant example of how art is informed by art. This dance piece wouldn't be the same without the music it is set to or the paintings that inspired it.

The first section of was called "Matter and Material." Before the performance, Fagan talked about how Romare Bearden's home was filled with matter and material for his collages. Bits and pieces of fabric and paper, scraps that didn't have a specific purpose yet, but might be useful someday. Like a collage artist, dancers have pieces of raw material, bits of choreography, small half-formed ideas that are just waiting to be put to use. So "Matter and Material" was a dance collage, a combination of all these small movements and ideas just hanging around, waiting for the perfect project to come along. It was lovely.

The second section was a riveting duet based on a Bearden painting called "Detail: Down Home Also." The dancers in this piece had such a beautiful felt that they were intimately linked even when they were across the stage from each other. Before the piece began, Fagan showed us an image of the Bearden painting: a man and a woman lying together in a field, the man's arm outstretched, the woman's elbow tilted in. At the end of the duet, the dancers positioned themselves in an exact, live replica of the Bearden painting. It was stunning.

"Conjur Man" was the third and final section, an upbeat romp set to Jelly Roll Morton's "Jungle Blues." I loved this piece. Bits and pieces of movement from the previous sections came together in unexpected ways. The dancers were full of life and energy. It was pure joy.

And of course I have to mention the extra surprise of the evening. Before the show, as we were settling into our seats and perusing the program, Kevin gave me an enthusiastic punch in the arm. One of the newest members of Garth Fagan Dancers was none other than Vitolio...from season five of So You Think You Can Dance! How cool is that?

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