Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The London Contemporary Dance Theater, which made its Wolf Trap debut Tuesday night as part of its first American tour, is a splendid looking company. Beautifully trained and disciplined, the troupe dances with such evident conviction and mutual rapport that one is instantly drawn into their enterprise. The Wolf Trap crowd though not large, gave the visitors a warm greeting.
At the same time, the evening confirmed that where modern dance is concerned the United States is the empire and these Britishers are colonists, and it is the latter who have the catching up to do.
All of which is understandable. Modern dance, which is to say, anything but toe-shoe ballet, never took hold in Europe as it did in this country, despite flurries of original work much earlier in the century.
The London Contemporary Dance Theater is a kind of American transplant founded by an Englishman, Robin Howard, who fell under the Martna Graham spell, and an American dancer. Robert Cohan, who was long a leading dancer with the Graham troupe. During the company's formative years, borrowings from Graham and other American choreographers largely sustained the group with the help of guest artists and teachers.
More recently, the group has striven assiduously for independence. The current repertory is drawn almost exclusively from chereographers by company members, who have commissioned new music for the purpose.
The results have curiously diluted look to American eyes. By European standards, according to what one hears, the LCDT repertory seems advanced and adventurous. But to anyone exposed to American dance since the late '50s, the pieces shown Tuesday night have a very derivative stamp about them.
This is not to say that the choreography does not have many fine points, or that it all resembles Graham. All three works displayed an authoritative grasp of composition and each has its strokes of ingenuity and imagination. What's more, only Cohan's "Class," which is in the nature of an elaboration of the company's technique classes, relates consistently to the Graham idiom.
But the program as a whole suggested that the company is just now making for itself the discoveries that Graham's American disciples hit upon a generation ago. The pantherine reachings and curlings of Siobhan Davies' "Diary 2" echoed Merce Cunningham. Cohan's "Cell," with its expressionist set and its nervous gropings and couplings, evoked a clutch of models from Sokolow to Butler to Tetlev. These pieces are not without impact, but they also have the feel of hand-me-downs rather than fresh inventions.