Before we even start talking about how good the dancing was at Bowen McCauley Dance’s 15th anniversary gala Saturday night, we have to talk about how good it was that this local company was able to perform at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater, with live musicians, before a sold-out audience.
That was awesome.
And the dancing? Pretty darn good too.
Instead of programming a retrospective, choreographer Lucy Bowen McCauley chose newer works and premieres. The only throwback was from 2004, and that featured a live post-industrial prog rock band. (So loud, ushers passed out earplugs.) So no, Bowen McCauley did not celebrate by playing it safe, and neither did her dancers.
This was one hard-working troupe of nine, plus two out-of-town guests. John Mark Giragosian, a former student of Bowen McCauley’s now with the Joffrey Ballet, performed a clever solo about a guy jilted by a ballerina (Alicia Curtis) lingering at stage left. Elisa Clark, a Mark Morris dancer, soloed in the well-amped “Telemetry.” Both were bonuses on a night more about how Bowen McCauley’s own dancers keep improving.
Few choreographers—local or otherwise—create such fascinating works for trios. McCauley advises gymnasts, work that influences her choreography and her understanding of body mechanics. During “Time and Clouds” (premiered last year; looking even better now), there’s a tense moment when two men swing Alaina Williams by her bended knees, as if she’s about to flip off the high bar.
Trios also factored prominently in “Ozone,” a spacious premiere that recalls Merce Cunningham in its varied partnering but with a greater emphasis on musicality. A soprano, flutist and onstage cellist performed a score by Larry Allan Smith, and the work closed with a poem by Rita Dove. “Track a falling star,” she recited, but “track rising stars” was more like it.