The D.C. Repertory Dance Company, looking wonderfully fit and fresh from an appearance at the FESTAC black arts festival in Nigeria that eyewitnesses described as triumphant, gave a high-voltage performance at Cramton Auditorium Saturday night.
This was not only the troupe's first engagement since its return home, but also its first large-scale public performance locally since a concert at Lisner two years ago. The first thing one tended to notice, therefore, was the remarkable advance in the level of thd dancing and smoothness of the overall production.
Though they are not free of shortcomings, particularly with respect to placement and balance, the 11 current members of the company demonstrate an enviable degree of precision, energy and technical facility. A few dancers, most notably David Cameron, project an appealing individuality as well.
The repertory, like that of comparable troupes elsewhere, fuses African motifs with contemporary black dance styles. The emphasis varies from work to work - community in "Love to the World" and "Spirit" (one of the most engaging pieces but far too long for its content); the roots of black dance from minstrelsy to the hustle in "The Entertainer"; and show-biz pizzazz in "For All We Know" and "Anthem."
All these dances are the work of artistic director Mike Malone. He is a gifted choreographer and his output compares very favorably in invention with similarly derived material by say, Ailey, McKayle or Pomare. It is somewhat self-limiting, however - the sameness of idion, the dependency on song forms and the unremitting allegro induce a certain surface monotony.
The New York City Ballet has been tossing such a rich mix of ballet goodies at us this past week it rather makes the head reel. Of the performances I caught this weekend (Saturday matinee) and earlier ones not yet remarked upon, a number were outstanding. "Serenade," Balanchine's early (1934) love affair with Tchaikovsky, received an especially urgent, impassioned performance Saturday, abetted by Hugo Florato's uncommonly rapturous interpretation of the score.
Jerome Robbins' "Fanfare," Friday evening, testified to the remarkable strength in depth of the company's younger ranks. Balanchine's "La Valse," seen Saturday after a long absence, reminded us of the peculiarly trenchant power of this vision of despairing decadence. The chilliness of "Chaconne" was relieved, Wednesday evening, by the ecstatic brilliance of Suzanne Farrell and Peter Martins in their concluding duet, and "The Concert," Saturday, proved itself once again the wittiest of ballet spoofs.