The flow recently has been so predominantly in the opposite direction that it's refreshing to have a dance troupe founded and flourishing on the West Coast migrating Eastward for a change. Dance/LA, based in Los Angeles, is currently finishing its first Eastern tour, and it's a trim, lively, interesting outfit.
Under the auspices of the University of Maryland Dance Department, the 11-member ensemble gave two performances this past weekend at the Publick Playhouse in Bladensburg, a 500-seat recently converted moviehouse with a very presentable stage.
Ronnie Brosterman and Spider Kedelsky are listed as "general managers," and musician Betty Walberg as artistic consultant, but the troupe apparently operates as a collective, an increasingly popular formate for smaller companies everywhere. The repertory is drawn from works by company members, as well as such "outsiders" as Kei Takei and Bill Veans.
It is easier to find good dancers than notable choreographers, however - a difficulty that respects no geographical boundaries. The Dance/LA personnel are without exception goodlooking, well-trained, strong and versatile, and together make a comspicuously harmonious ensemble. The dance fare displayed here, though, looked depressingly bland on the whole, an assortment of eclectic diversions without commitment to an overriding esthetic program or principle.
By far the most distinctive and memorable items were the two pieces by Ronnie Brosterman, both of which show an original choreographic instinct at work. "Rapunzel" is set to a creepily exotic poem by Ann Sexton about sexual possessiveness.The dance is a tour de force, a sinuous solo for Madeleine Scott which shows off her truly striking power of mime and expressionist movement. It is also Scott, on the sound track, whose lucid, subtle reading of the poetry helps make this one of the few combinations of words and dance I've encountered that really seems to work.
"The Plenitude of Being Water," with a suitably evocative score by Ted Kalmon, deploys five dancers in imagery suggesting undulation, splash, whirlpools, the spread and reflection of ripples. The movement makes canny use of stillness. Any displacements and slow gyration and it's altogether compelling in line and rhythm.
Also eye-catching was Margaret Schuette's "In a Shaded Place," a genty erotic idyll sensitively performed by Don Graham and Molly McNiece.