The Joyce Trisler Danscompany paid its first visit to Washington at Lisner Auditorium this past weekend, and left one with the hope that it will be followed by many future appearances.
To start with, this deft, strong, polished and expressive company of 10 ranks with the best modern-dance ensembles we've seen in recent years. The flexibility, attack and beautifully oiled phrasing of the individually dancers, moreover, is witness to the efficacy of the techniques director Trisler adopted from her early mentor, Lestor Horton.
From its varied repertory, the company brought us two of its most distinctive elements - works by Trisler herself, and excerpts from Klarna Pinska's reconstruction of the wellsprings of American modern dance, "The Spirit of Denishawn."
The Denishawn offerings alone would have made the evening a special occasion. It was, inevitably, a revelation to those of us who have heard and read so much of the pioneering work of Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn, but have seen nothing but drawings, photos and fragmentary old films. further, it was proof that the Denishawn repertory is more than an antique curiosity - there's esthetic validity here that deserves loving preservation.
We may smile a bit today at the square literal rythms of the "Gnossienne" or the naively didactic structure of Shawn's "Bach." Not only, however, is the naivete redeemed by purity of conception; the fact is that such pieces as the limpidly poetic "Liebestraum" (so sentitively danced by Nancy Colehan) and the breathtaking "Soaring," with its inspired use of billowing fabric, are visions of genius, requiring no opology for age or period.
Trisler's "Little Red Riding Hood," set to song numbers associated with the Duke Ellington band, is both too long for its parodistic ideas. But her "Four Temperaments" is an altogether fascinating work. Though it ultimately succumbs to the formal tyranny of the Hindemith score, it has a fine classical sense of line and space and makes a convincing compositional whole.
In celebration of National Dance Week, Jan Van Dyke and Dancers gave a weekend program at the Marvin Theater that included two Van Dyke premieres. "No Name," to rock music, is a rather aimless solo, but it exploited the athletic virtuosity of James Patterson to impressive effect.
"The Passenger," to Satie's over-used "Gymnopedies," is another of Van Dyke's enigmatic parables. In this one, a woman in a print dress (Virginia Freeman) is inducted into the mysteries of a trio of diaphanously clad, somnolently wafting females. Also on the program were "Ella" and "Fleetwood Mac Suite."
Maybe it was the performances, but somehow the evening spotlighted the weaknesses of a Van Dyke Program - a combination of dramatically evocative imagery with irritatingly evasive development, couched in a movement style that for the most part seems palid and wearisomely laid back.