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Dance

In Rockville, Keeping Hampton's Legacy Alive

By Kirsten Bodensteiner
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, March 8, 2005; Page C03

Sunday evening at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, it seemed the Washington area's best dancers were all in Rockville. Better yet, the program, titled "Steps on the Other Side of Winter," mixed ballet and modern works from some of the region's most talented choreographers. Too bad it was only for a single night.

The choreographic gem of the evening was a reconstruction of "Fon Fon Odeon (Tangos)" by Eric Hampton. A mainstay of the dance community, he crafted works for the Washington Ballet, the Maryland Youth Ballet and his own Eric Hampton Dance before his death from Lou Gehrig's disease in 2001.

The work, in seven sections, was pure pleasure. The dancers, two men and three women, were in complete control of movement combining elements of the tango -- quick changes of direction and sliding toes -- with ballet's explosive leaps and pirouettes.

The able performers homed in on the work's humor as well as its steps, especially in the third section, where Bruno Agusto's deadpan attitude and slow walk made a perfect foil for Florian Rouiller's upbeat leaps.

Rouiller donned sunglasses in the fifth section, oblivious to the attentions of Alison Crosby, whose quick feet flitted frantically at his side, all eagerness, to the nuanced score by Ernesto Nazareth.

Former Hampton dancer Natalie Moffett Smith's troupe DanceSmith performed "The Gift," which, like Hampton's work, shows a strong musical sensibility. Also in the ballet idiom, the choreography is dense and complex, as if Smith didn't want to waste a moment or a musical phrase of Arcangelo Corelli's. The work for five women combines ballet's vocabulary with modern dance's sense of weight and utilization of the floor.

Alvin Mayes's "Night Blooming Jasmine," a solo for the talented Nejla Yatkin, concerns women of Muslim Africa. At times Yatkin seemed fragile under the weight of the ample fabric of her Empire-waisted white dress, which she draped over her head at the beginning and end of the work. At times she was wildly sensual underneath.

The two works by Carla Perlo, "No Words to Say" and "By Myself Not Alone," both dealing with a sense of loss, provided a contrast to the ballet works on the program with simple, modern unison movement.


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