Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
"Blood-Burning Moon," the new Eleo Pomare work given its world premiere by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Kennedy Center Thursday night, is one of those cases where one can admire the conception without warming to the result.
Pomare has said of the place that if Martha Graham could base choreography on Greek tragedies, there was no reason he couldn't do the same with the work of a fine black writer, which is indisputably so. Thus he has gone to an extract from Jean Toomer's "Cane," set in the rural South in the early part of this creatury.
The scene is a cane plantation. A black woman (Donna Wood) is loved by two men, the white plantation owner's son (Peter Woodin) and a black field hand (Ulysses Dove). A jealous brawl breaks out between the men. The black stabs the white, and is in turn strangled and burned at the stake by the incensed white townfolk (an ensemble which doubles as a chorus of Cane Furies).
Pomare has a powerful sense of theatrical effect and it hasn't deserted him here. The prevailing ominous mood, the fleshly impluses of the lovers, and the town's vengeful fury are set forth with a sure, knowing hand.
The trouble is that in reducing the tale to a stylized outline, he has given us what looks like a garish, simplistic melodrama, and one that's too thin choreographically to support its literary baggage.
There are other problems: The role of the Pre-monitor is wholly obscure; the sets and props confuse rather than clarify; the costumes only vaguely suggest the period, and the music by Lateef and Ellington, though dramatically apt, contradicts it. The dance performances, however, were excellent on the whole.