Onstage at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, Spanish dancer-choreographer Marta Carrasco is seated in a wooden chair on casters, performing her hourlong 1995 solo “Firewater” (Aiguardent) on Friday.
For nearly 15 minutes, she doesn’t dance a step, but whirls through the space on the chair, sometimes dragging a table along with her or lashing her shoulder-length hair or reaching unwillingly but compulsively for a wine jug on the table.
Alcohol rules the character she portrays and when she finally, inevitably yields to it, she nearly drowns herself in jug after jug, the liquid pouring over her face, onto the table, down her body and across the stage floor. When she violently pounds the table, spray after spray soars upward as a kind of explosive projection of her fury. And, in the end, she wallows in alcohol, spinning and sliding on the wet stage, soaked to the soul.
Before this harrowing finale, however, Carrasco shows us happier aspects of this dangerously troubled woman. Changing clothes in front of an imaginary mirror, she dances innocently, playfully as if back in her childhood, doing the steps she learned in ballet class. She also changes into a jump suit and throws herself into the air against the upended mattress that serves as the back wall of the stage. Magically, she doesn’t fall, but hangs from the mattress as if asleep on it. Only when she pulls away do we hear the characteristic sound of Velcro fasteners coming apart.
Sexuality periodically becomes a kind of game for her. At one point she dances provocatively, raising her skirt and eyeing the audience, and a little later she applies costume pieces depicting genitalia to the outside of her jump suit, posing mock seductively.
But the game often ends in anger, and though we hear Edith Piaf singing that she regrets nothing, Carrasco shows us unsparingly how much pain this woman bears.
Ultimately, “Firewater” is experiential rather than analytical: We don’t really come to understand Carrasco’s nameless protagonist, but we do glimpse her conflicts and complexities through all the flashbacks, fantasies and sudden eruptions of spontaneous dancing that lead to her nightmarish drinking scene at the end.
Like Carrasco’s group piece “Mira’m” last year at the Ford, “Firewater” demonstrates her extraordinary knack for using the resources of contemporary dance-theater to get inside emotional states and reveal the darkest secrets of human nature. Ably assisting her in this project: directors Pep Bou and Ariel Garcia Valdes, along with four lighting designers and recorded music from eight different pop and classical sources.
Her one-night appearance is part of the second annual Latino Arts Festival International, a component of the Ford’s summer-long performance schedule.