Introducing a 1966 television version of Rooms
, dance critic Clive Barnes said, "Today in America the artist has come to look at the world he lives in with unblinkered eyes. Theatrical dance ranges from entertainment to spectacle. But there is a specifically American form of dance that accepts modern themes of life, hope, death, and despair, as searchingly as does any other American art. Such works have an engagement with life as lived. Typical of them is Anna Sokolow's somber masterpiece, Rooms
. When it was created in 1954, it was perhaps the first time dance had used jazz with irony, so that its assertive upbeat became the background not for teen-age rebels, but for the tragic isolation of man in the jazz age.... Rooms
is a ballet about loneliness of the spirit, the hunger of the soul. The people here live cooped up yet isolated in the tiny box-like rooms, unadjusted, rejected, and inconsolable over the loss of their natural dignity and innocence. Yet each one of these frightened creatures is part of ourselves, and the scene of Rooms
is the world itself, now, today. Rooms
is a ballet for a generation without faith. Even the titles of the individual dances tell everything. Escape. Going. Desire. Panic."
Notes: From videotape of "The Anna Sokolow Birthday Gala," The Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullam Center.