This year for the first time, Washington's Dance Project is presenting visiting as well as resident troupes in its small but attractive space. It's a laudable initiative even if the imports don't pan out every time, as was the case with the Group Motion ensemble this past weekend.
Group Motion was founded in 1962 in West Berlin by some proteges of the Mary Wigman school. In 1963 the troupe transferred to Philadelphia, where it has remained since.
At the time of its arrival, Group Motion's adventurous use of multi-media, its alternation of fixed and improvised choreography and its emphasis on collective enterprise seemed to put it in the vanguard of contemporary dance.
If the present program is any indication, however, the troupe has become a captive of its own pretensions. They early experiments have not evolved into anything substantial or compelling, but instead have regressed into dull ritualism.
It is true the performance wasn't seen under the best conditions. There were last-minute cast changes. The accompanying poetry reading was delivered not live, as usual, but on tape. Technical hang-ups ruled out much of the troupe's visual input from slides and film. Even so, it was plain enough that the poetry and synthesized music were third-rate, that the dance movement was monotonously unengaging, and that the ruling concept is embarrassingly bubble-headed. The directors seem to be mistakenly assuming that self-indulgent "trips" for the group will sweep the audience into a communal trance. Instead, the repetitive mumbo-jumbo induces stupor, and keeps the spectator at arm's length.
In short, a veneer of Love Generation platitudes can't hide the poverty of choreographic invention. The only bright spots amidst the tedium were provided by the zany costumes for "In the Garden of Woo," suggesting mythical insects - the work of someone who goes under the name of Woofy Bubbles.
Lured by the promise of "stars" of the Bolshoi, I spent a grueling hour with the Osipov Balalaika Orchestra at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall Saturday night. The stars turned out to be a smattering of competent but undistinguished vocal and dance soloists who did nothing to mitigate the numbing effects of a program of commercialized Slavic schlock. The Orchestra itself is an inexplicable prodigious collection of folk and conventional instruments. The musical selections have precious little to do with either folk or classical art.The event drew a full house - who'd have thought there were so many balalaika fanciers in town? Don't ask me what it's a sign of.