Choreographer Tamar Rogoff’s new masterpiece, “Christina Olson: American Model,” takes Claire Danes off of the big screen and onto an intimate stage at Performance Space 122 for a 12 night run.
In the most dramatic role of her career, Danes depicts the lonely girl in the pink dress depicted in the painting by Andrew Wyeth, “Christina’s World.” Claire Danes, a dancer since age 6, brings to life the emotions and struggles of Christina Olson, who suffered a crippling muscular disease that left her paralyzed from the waist down. The dance itself is in theory simple, made up of runs, jumps, leaps and stretches, but are complicated as Danes distorts her body and strains herself to look knotted by the disease. Natural motions are impossible as she is imprisoned in her own body. Danes stares up mesmerized by light and runs around the stage longing to be free of her body that she is a prisoner of. The choreography is so precise and sharp it is defined to the blinking of an eye and the bending of a wrist.
The piece is highly emotional and looks into the mind of Olson who was desperately determined to remain independent. She refused to ridicule herself by using a wheelchair so she dragged herself by her arms.
Danes, an accredited television and film star famous for her role in Baz Luhrman’s “Romeo + Juliet”, exits the stage and a video, directed by Andrew Baker, of Danes dragging herself across 1st Avenue and up the stairs of P.S. 122 shows the determination of Olson to remain self reliant. It is a heartbreaking and agonizing scene to watch.
The score adds sound to the emotions within Olson. As Danes dreamily floats around the stage wishing for the ability to move, a depressing classical piano and violin piece cries.
The mood drastically changes when Danes comes back to reality and addresses the audience telling them how those around her have all married. Realizing her loneliness she stomps around the stage in a rage while an eerie piercing electronic piece enhances her anger.
In the book “Andrew Wyeth √¢?” A Secret Life”, Richard Meryman writes, “There’s everything about Christina √¢?” her hand pushing a pie plate towards you or putting wood in the stove. There’s a feeling that, yes, you’re seeing something that’s happening momentarily, but it’s also a symbol of what was always happened in Maine. The eternity of a moment.”
As you watch Claire Danes, you realize you are entranced in this same moment.