PERFORMING ARTS

Monday, July 31, 2006; C05

The Yardbirds at the State Theatre

It often gets a laugh, news that a 1960s band is touring again. How can geezers still rock?

But with the Yardbirds, you've got to hold the chuckles.

Two of the original members -- rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja and drummer Jim McCarty -- are still with the band, but the three young musicians they've discovered clearly believe the Yardbirds remain relevant. The songs were vintage, but they were as politically current as ever, and they were performed with power and passion.

At Friday's performance at the State Theatre, bassist John Idan more than simply re-created the famous vocals of "Over, Under, Sideways, Down," "For Your Love," "Heart Full of Soul," "Shapes of Things" and "The Train Kept a-Rollin'," and harmonica player Billy Boy Miskimmin added a sonic punch not found in the original recordings.

The Yardbirds are known for discovering lead guitarists who take flight and change music -- Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck among them. They may have done it again with Ben King.

Just 22 and Tiger Beat handsome, King cuts a disquietingly similar figure to the young Beck, but even more frightening is his apparent mastery of the Fender Telecaster. On "My Blind Life," "The Nazz Are Blue" and a screaming set-closing version of "Dazed and Confused" (pinched for Led Zeppelin when Page moved on), King demonstrated an uncanny knack for making exciting blues rock.

Who cares if only two of the original remain? The band is terrific, and the songs are still great.

-- Buzz McClain

Sahara Dance Showcase

Sahara Dance pushed the boundaries on belly dance during its performance at Calvary Baptist Church on Friday evening.

Sahara Dance Showcase, presented as part of the Capital Fringe Festival, featured two ensembles: Raqs Sahara, which is grounded in traditional technique and style, and Sahara Tribal, which fuses traditional belly dance with contemporary and Western aesthetics. The high-energy performance was filled with feats of coordination.

A group of dancers played finger cymbals while stepping across the stage and creating lines and shapes with their arms; later, two dancers balanced swords on their heads as they performed lightning-fast torso movements. The highlights of the program were solos danced by Rachel Kay Brookmire and the single-named Chiaki and Elysa. The soloists seemed to become more expressive and impassioned when they were not preoccupied with maintaining group uniformity.

Sharing the program, AVAdance/SpiritMotion presented "Slightly Uncomfortable," a multimedia work featuring choreography by Michelle Ava, original music by Tony Bernardi, poetry by Marshall Ball and video by Rachel Storey and Anthony Brock. Using simple, mostly pedestrian-style movement, the choreography tried to show not only the relevance of Ball's poetry to today's global conflicts and crises, but also how one can find peace in a tumultuous world.

Unfortunately, the project was conceptually convoluted. Ava was trying to express so many ideas that none of them had the chance to fully develop. Additionally, the interdisciplinary elements often competed for audience attention, rather than complement each other. The show's strength was its performers, whose character portrayals were authentic and realistic.

-- Sarah Halzack

FloydProject Dance Company

FloydProject Dance Company addressed the empowerment of women in a formulaic way Friday at the Warehouse Theater.

"Not Every Woman . . . What's Your Story?" was built on women's stories collected on the troupe's Web site by company director Debra K. Floyd. The theme was worthy and the dancers intense. Floyd, who choreographed the program, knows how to move dancers around the stage to keep up interest. But good intentions and hard work aren't enough to make up for cliches. Dancers went from being hunched over and looking dejected to being upbeat, saucy and dressed in red.

Too much earnestness can be off-putting. Floyd has the chops to choreograph, but she would do well to treat this weighty subject with a little more subtlety.

-- Pamela Squires

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