The program of solos at the Dance Project this past weekend was one more illustration of the cyclical nature of dance history, and of a current retrospective trend as well.
In contrast to the mass theatrical ensembles of classical ballet, the pathfinders of modern dance in the early decades of this century -- Isadora Duncan, Loie Fuller, Mary Wigman, Ruth St.-Denis, Martha Graham, and others -- offered solo recitals, underlining the personal quality of their novel approaches to the art. Creator and performer became one in this genre, and to the inherent appeal of this fusion was added all the considerable charm of intimacy.
Among the most recent generations of dancers, solo pieces are enjoying a renewed vogue of late, and the Dance Project program made a welcome showcase for local contributions to the form.
Outstanding among the seven works shown was the opening solo, archly entitled "Duet," composed and danced by Elly Canterbury. The elongated reachings and graceful turns of the dance are notably well matched both to the bluesy languor of the Gershwin music (ably played by pianist Kevin Fischer) and to Canterbury's own willowy lyricism. Jan Van Dyke's "Elly's Dance," for the same performer, also draws knowingly upon Canterbury's svelte movement contours, but as a whole it lacks compelling shape.
In "Winter's Time," Susan Sachs finds an apt poetic motif for Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings" -- a weighted uncoiling of adagio somersaults. Sally Nash's bluntly ritualistic "Raindance," however, though splendidly executed by Jan Van Dyke, failed to carry its premises beyond inert beginnings, and neither "Crossing," by Carla Perlo and Steve Bloom, nor Cynthia Schraf-Fletcher's "Red Silk Pajamas" were of more than passing interest.
At the Kennedy Center Friday evening, the Hungarian Folk Ballet of Budapest, together with the Ensemble Budapest Gypsy Orchestra, fell into a depressingly stereotyped mold -- intriguing, colorful folk dance betrayed by schlocky packaging and mediocre choreographic arrangements.