What was most distinctive about Reedy’s program, however, was the fact that it included two other choreographers, an act of generosity as rare as it was rewarding. It was also smart. The downfall of many single-choreographer companies is that if you don’t love that choreographer’s style, you may not want to return after intermission. But in programming Hampton’s masterly 1996 heartbreaker “Half a Life” right before the break, Reedy had us hungry for more.
Facing his 50th birthday, Hampton created “Half a Life” as a bittersweet portrait of lost youth. Did he have any inkling then that his time was speeding to an end more quickly than any of us could have imagined? Not long afterward, he was given a diagnosis of ALS — Lou Gehrig’s disease — and died in 2001, at 54.
Hampton was an important teacher and mentor: Among the members of his company were Dana Tai Soon Burgess, Lucy Bowen McCauley and Tony Powell, who, like Reedy, have all followed in Hampton’s dancemaking footsteps. I knew him, as so many in Washington’s dance scene did, as a friend. But as large and giving a spirit as he had, what looms even sharper in memory are his dances, elegant works of grace and perfect timing. “Half a Life,” a small, quiet dance for three, accompanied by three Mahler songs, is as startling and deeply moving now as it was 15 years ago.
Credit the knowing oversight of Harriet Moncure Williams, who safeguards Hampton’s choreography; Reedy’s staging (she danced in it while the choreographer was alive); and the sensitivity of the cast: Bruno Augusto as the Artist, Whitlow as the Artist as a Young Man and Kathryn Pilkington as the Muse. At its premiere I saw longed-for romance in this work, with the Muse wrapped around the Young Man in an arcing coil; they were the memory of love, lost to the Artist. Now, I think that Hampton, as an older choreographer, was noting how much more easily inspiration came to him in his youth. The dance’s poignancy works on several levels, and the effortless, liquid momentum that nudges it forward creates the kind of spell you experience only in great art. I hope Reedy revives more of Hampton’s works.
The other guest choreographer on Reedy’s program was Karla Wolfangle, a former dancer with Paul Taylor and Lar Lubovitch. Her “Madame X,” a solo danced by Constance Dinapoli on a stage ringed with candlelight, was a spot-on portrait of the forceful personality behind the model for the John Singer Sargent painting. As confident as it was, I think it was also a portrait of its maker, and I was glad to glimpse her work.
How enlarging it was to see a variety of work. It’s one thing for a dancer to be bighearted; it’s almost a survival instinct. But generosity is fitting for a choreographer, too. Of course, the real payoff is for the audience members. And this one says thanks.