Annabelle Gamson is a strong, capable performer who combines lyricism and pedagogical zeal in concerts which reveal the force of her personality and the clarity of her interests. Her historically accurate reconstructions of the lost dances of Isadora Duncan and Mary Wigman have brought her to recent prominence, and she performed some of these - along with her own compositions - at Marvin Center Saturday night.
Watching Gamson in Duncan's dances is rather like watching flames glimmer through a wall of ice. What comes through is a sense of the direct heat that must have passed between Duncan and an audience. Yet these reconstructed dances are, by definition, indirect utterances, and as such they tend to waver between the conflicting commands of art and historic preservation.
Pursuit of historical authenticity tends to inhibit the free improvisational impulses of live performance, and the realities of evanescence and decay somehow get left out of the equation. These reconstructed dances seem almost too accurate, as if frozen in time.
It's important to add that, by reviving these works, Gamson has brought us a very great fift. The dances have an architectural grandeur and distinction of gesture that give them value beyond the purely antiquarian, and at moments Saturday night, Gamson was able to breathe the magic back into them. She was particularly successful in Wigman's delicate "Pastoral," and she gave powerful articulation to the wood-block angularities of Duncan's "Etude," using hands and body to translate the silent shrieks into visible shock waves.
It's harder to get the hang of Gamson's own choreography, which blends older and newer elements in a not altogether successful synthesis. Her dances are linked to Duncan's and Wigman's in their musicality and instinct for the dignity of simple movement but they lack their structural and sculptural majesty.
The most successful of Gamson's own works was "First Movement," a goofy, ingratiating piece to Mozart's Horn Concerto in D. The dance is full of casual ironies and nonsequiturs, and it's fun to see Isadora's sublime vibratos and tremolos reappear in accents of witty self-mockery.