Artemis & The Black Rose: Lar Lubovitch Dance Company at the Joyce Theater, Oct. 15-19, 2014….
Lar Lubovitch Dance Company returned to the Joyce Theater for its 46th Anniversary Season with a program based on ancient myths entitled Ancient Tales. The program consisted of the premieres of The Black Rose and Artemis in Athens, a re-conceived production of Artemis, which was originally created for American Ballet Theatre in 2003.
The evening opened with Artemis in Athens featuring guest artist Alessandra Ferri and ten young dancers from The Juilliard School who performed with the Lubovitch Company to a newly commissioned orchestration of Christopher Theofanidis’s original score. The score was performed live by Le Train Bleu under the direction of Ransom Wilson. But sadly, not even Alessandra Ferri with Le Train Bleu and Ransom Wilson could save Artemis in Athens.
I wanted so very badly and I ardently tried to like Artemis in Athens…but no matter how much I tried I just couldn’t. (…and I tried hard…)
Zeus, father of Artemis, in his infinite wisdom gives Artemis, goddess of the hunt, a sacred glade. Zeus, perhaps like all fathers, is a little over-protective of his daughter’s virginity…Artemis is sort of known for her virginity. He therefore decreed death to any mortal (especially mortal men) who enter and sees Artemis. Along comes Akteon who, while out hunting stumbles upon the glade. When Artemis discovers him in her glade she mercifully spares his life by turning him into a deer and setting him free to roam in the woods….
Mr. Lubovitch (and I have literary lost sleep trying to figure out why)…set the work in a summer camp for the boys and girls scout troops in Athens, Georgia. The dancers wear tan scout uniforms….and yes, they were complete with the sash displaying their badges of achievement, knot tying, canoeing, fire making, etc. Sadly, even with the addition of Ms. Ferri, one of the world’s greatest dramatic ballerinas, the whole scout motive just made the production seem amateurish.
Now if not for the scout motive, this may just have been a brilliant piece. The choreography is filled with beautiful movement that utilizes both classical and modern vocabularies. Every move and gesture of Mr. Ferri was sublime. Tobin Del Cuore was an excellent partner for Ms. Ferri, his lifts strong and he always seemed in command.
Christopher Theofanidis’s original score, performed live by Le Train Bleu under the direction of Ransom Wilson was wonderful. I greatly admire Mr. Lubovitch’s commitment in using live music for his performances, something that has become increasingly rare in today’s dance scene.
I would love to see a stripped down version of Artemis in Athens, a version without the whole scout motive…
The Black Rose, tells a dark tale drawn by Mr. Lubovitch from the ancient folk stories from which fairy tales originally arose. The work is for ten dancers and set to a commissioned score by Scott Marshall (composer of Lubovitch’s Men’s Stories).
The work is a tad melodramatic, very stagy, and seems to want to appeal to the Gothic crowd. Everything is dark, the costumes, the lighting design and especially the score. Mr. Marshall’s score is a compilation that mixes Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake with some love songs heard here and there.
The work takes place at a ball and a witch’s Sabbath. There is an attempted play on the theme of light and dark, good vs. evil. Reid Bartelme approaches Mucuy Bolles with a red rose and honorable intention. Barton Cowperthwaite, sinister from the moment he steps on stage, presents a black rose to Mr. Bolles. The only thing lacking from Mr. Cowperthwaite persona of turpitude is a handlebar mustache for him to twirl while snickering evilly.
Long story short, Mr. Cowperthwaite seduces and rapes Ms. Bolles. Mr. Bartelme appears blind with a walking stick because Mr. Cowperthwaite has puts out his eyes (he has red something smeared down the front of his face) and then proceeds to beat Mr. Bartelme without mercy. A baby is born from Ms. Bolles and Mr. Cowperthwaite’s violent union. An over sized fork and knife appear and it would seem that Mr. Cowperthwaite has his heart set on a delightful meal of baby a la fricase. Ms. Bolles and Mr. Bartelme find each other in those last few moments and the rest is history…
Lar Lubovitch has made a career of producing the unexpected. He is a very brave artist that is willing, actually seems to yearn trying new things, new approaches. The only problem with this is sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. From me, both Artemis in Athens and The Black Rose did not work.
But in all fairness Mr. Lubovitch must be commended on his willingness to experiment. His refusal to be categorized has yielded some incredible dances such as his 2011 work Crisis Vairation which won the 2012 Prix Benois de la Danse or one of the most brilliant dances for men created (I think…) his 2013 work As Sleep Befell, set to Paola Prestini score and is for six men. Both are brilliant and is evidence of a certain genius and geniuses take chances…