Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
What a muchness of dance we had in Washington this past weekend with American Ballet Theater going full blast at the Kennedy Center and at least four local groups showing their wares and giving, generally speaking, a very fine account of themselves.
The final event - the ABT program Sunday night - marked a pinnacle for this and several previous seasons. The source was the debut of Gelsey Kirkland in Jerome Robbins' "Other Dances," with Mikhail Baryshnikov as her partner. It was one of those landmark performances this pair has favored us with from time to time, and never have they seemed more sublimely well-matched or more rapturously inspired.
No one can adequately describe what makes great dancers great, but it's remarkable how little dancing it takes for one to perceive artistic supremacy in the moments of its realization on stage.
Nothing Kirkland or Baryshnikov did in "Other Dances" was more profoundly affecting than their entrance to the Chopin little A. Minor Mazurka, as they struck parallel poses and lifted their arms in exquisitely gracious, complementary arcs - that said it all, in a way.
The choreography, conceived as an appendix to Robbins' "Dances at a Gathering" is a marvel of lyrical and virtuoso ingenuity, all within the framework of solo or dust miniatures. Blinding flurries of cuick, complex [WORD ILLEGIBEL] yield suddenly to languorous extensions that seem to draw seconds into romantic eternities.
Baryshnikov's dancing fused ardor, ferocios pride and great bursts of aerial abandon with an underlying tenderness that made the bravura flights all the more breathtaking.
Kirkland combined fleetness of foot and remarkable exactitude in placement with a lithe curvaceousness of her torso and arms that almost hurt to watch - it was that beautiful.
The piece was premiered last spring with Baryshnikov partnering Natalia Makarova, and it was fascinating to see the very different inflections the work took on from Kirkland's quite different interpretation. Makarova threw off continuous sparks of devilish coquetry. There's a lot less fire in Kirkland's dancing, but far more warmth and intimacy at the same time.
On that same program, Erik Bruhn and Martine van Hamel made their area debuts in Limon's "The Moor's Pavane." Though the innate nobility of their approach commands respect, this ABT staging still misconstrues the Limon esthetic - the drama can't be acted out, but must be rendered in movement made heavy with tragic feeling.
MacMillan's "Danses Concertantes" looked even more refreshingly ebullient on a second viewing Sunday night, with especially alert dancing coming from Nanette Glushak, Rebecca Wright, Kirk Peterson and Warren Conover. Lichine's "Graduation Ball," the season's other revival, is pretty flighty stuff, but it does afford the company a chance for some nice satirical capers. Alexander Minz is an amusing Headmistress, and Marianna Tcherkassky, George de la Pena, Kirk Peterson, Warren Conover, Leslie Browne and the promising Patrick Bisell got in some fine licks in performances Friday night and Saturday afternoon.
On the local side, the ance Construction Company gave one of its most strikingly provocative performances to date this weekend in a recent, collectively choreographed opus called "Time Dance," based on "pulsation and accumulative forms." The quirky geometry and inventive by-play maintained high interest through the work's 70 minutes, abetted by composer John Driscoll's apt electronics and poetic recitation.
The performance benefited from the marked individuality of the dancers - Maida Withers, John Balley, Brook Andrews and their deft, intriguing guest artist, Cathy Paine - and they worked together with the intentness of commandos on a secret mission.
Also unusually impressive was the performance this weekend by Jan Van Dyke and Dancers, in a particularly strong and well balanced repertory assortment.