PERFORMING ARTS

Carla & Company, with guest choreographer Gesel Mason, presented a program of new and older works on Saturday at Dance Place.
Carla & Company, with guest choreographer Gesel Mason, presented a program of new and older works on Saturday at Dance Place. (By Stan Barouh)

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Carla & Company

Carla & Company, together with guest choreographer Gesel Mason, presented a lively program Saturday night at Dance Place. Carla Perlo, one of Washington's notable community dance educators and founder of Dance Place, demonstrated her conviction that "dance is for everyone" with an easily accessible program danced by a multi-generational, diverse troupe.

The packed house laughed through Mason's "How to Watch a Modern Dance," performed by Rita Jean Kelly and narrated by Richard Pilkinton. As Kelly performs wildly exaggerated imitations of Alvin Ailey, Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham, Pilkinton skeptically asks, "What the hell are they doing onstage?"

"The Space in Between," a Mason premiere, belied its origin as the culmination of a repertory class for adult students. To driving music by Radiohead, 11 dancers stand upright and motionless in slouchy camouflage khakis and T-shirts, as another dancer, in bright clothes, weaves her way through the human forest. The piece is striking in its mix of abrupt stillness and jarring motion, as if the dancers were oil on water suddenly agitated by solvent.

Perlo's premiere,"Let It Flow," featured eight dancers in flowing blue and green dresses and slacks. They swayed and turned, as if in liquid, their shadows projected larger than life on a backdrop. Moving from the ethereal to the everyday, the dancers interspersed children's games and vernacular play with the more abstract motions of flowing arms and torsos.

The final two pieces of the evening, "All Wrapped Up in Myself" and "All Wrapped Up in My Community," were nicely juxtaposed. The first featured six women with colorful batik wraps that transformed from beach towels to capes in a kaleidoscope of pattern. The last work was a celebration based on Israeli folk dancing that culminated with the audience joining in a large circle dance -- a joyous end to an uplifting evening.

-- Barbara Allen

Georgie James

Retro-pop duo Georgie James is a cinch for the shortlist of Washington's most promising bands: Its full-length debut, "Places," is so addictive a confection it ought to be covered by the Controlled Substances Act, and its concerts have been hailed far beyond the District.

Friday night at the Black Cat, at what doe-eyed, honey-voiced singer/keys player Laura Burhenn said was their first hometown gig since their album's September release, the band -- core members Burhenn and singer/multi-instrumentalist John Davis, plus live ringers Andrew Black (drums), Paul Michel (guitar, vocals) and Michael Cotterman (bass; he's also a Washington Post employee, we must tell you) -- served up 45 affable minutes of '70s-inflected sonic sunshine, ably re-creating the Paul McCartneyesque hooks, Paul Simonesque harmonies and Paul Welleresque grooves of their record. But there was no added urgency, or humor, or grit, or any of the qualities that, when present, make a live show superior to listening at home.

To be fair, the largely (and typically) indifferent Black Cat crowd might not have been seeing their local heroes at full strength: Last month, the band canceled 10 shows because Davis was sick. That said, both halves of Georgie James were in fine voice; Burhenn, especially, showing off a becoming vocal huskiness that gave "Cake Parade" and "Long Week" a smokier feel than their recorded incarnations.

For all their hummable tunes and irreproachable chops, Georgie James was at a disadvantage, going on after Aqueduct, a Seattle-based novelty act that can't begin to approach Davis and Burhenn's songcraft, but could teach them a thing or four about how to rock a crowd.


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