DanceSmith, Hot & Cool

(Photos By Tony Powell -- Dancesmith)
By Lisa Traiger
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, January 16, 2006

Kristina Windom has a Mona Lisa smile -- sweetly understated, mysterious and more than a little enigmatic -- and she used it to great advantage in the world premiere of Natalie Moffett Smith's "Arm's Length," an electrically charged pas de deux on the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater program Saturday evening. It's one of those very contemporary works about two people failing to connect. But that's where the cliche ends.

Moffett Smith, who founded her highly trained, finely tuned DanceSmith just four years ago, knows her way around a choreographic challenge. In "Arm's Length," Windom displayed an agitated sensibility, steely attack and coolly detached regard for her partner, Florian Rouiller, who couldn't hide his heartfelt regard for this unyielding partner. Moffett Smith captures the pulsing piano of John Adams's "China Gates" to underscore the architectural partnering: Rouiller as a girder for Windom's muscularity, deep lunges, off-kilter arabesques and tilts, and anxiety-filled pointe work.

"Blue Farewell," the evening's other premiere, showcased Moffett Smith in a moodily reflective solo to a dark-hued concerto by Karl Goldmark. Stylistically, her choreography can be categorized as contemporary ballet, and in "Blue Farewell," Moffett Smith unfortunately relied on a few tricks -- rolling up across her insteps from the floor, for example -- rather than substance. The evening's opener, "Divertimento," featured three sun-splashed abstract paintings by Helene O'Neil Cobb and eight women with brightly articulate movement engulfing the stage in summery marigold, dandelion and wheat-colored dresses. The company displayed technical adeptness, but the work felt uncharacteristically restrained, even with the verve of a Mozart score supporting them.

Not so with "Interior Lining," a smartly designed piece apportioned out to a vivacious score by Charlie Barnett. Here those women snapped to attention, with military heel-thrusting walks, sharply timed kicks, dashed out leaps and a tightfisted restraint that lent a mid-20th-century feel. "Disquiet" also suggested an edgy alienated mien and, underscored by a lushly baroque Handel composition, the dancers seethed through the work, ready to pounce.

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