"Environmental" dance took a gracious and intriguing turn yesterday at the Renwick Gallery, where the Murray Spalding Dance Theater presented "A Fine Romance," a dance impressive in a "30s-revisited" mold.
Spalding choreographed the engaging piece, using Yehudi Menuhin "Music of the Thirties" album as a sonic backdrop, specifically for the Renwick's Grand Salon. A good part of the charm of the work lies in the way the look and furnishings of the place - the deep-pile carpet, the ornate, period statuary drapes and sofas - enhanced the music and dance as a natural complement.
The dancing, all languid swirls, backbends and dips with sudden allegro embellishments, is like a 20-minute distillation of the lyrical numbers from the Astaire-Rogers musicals, against the same Berlin, Porter and Kern tunes. Astaire-Rogers, however, was the real thing, what Spalding gives us is a kind of nostalgic-ironic commentary.
The dancers - Spalding, Sarah Edgetts and Steve Peters - capture the elongated line and exaggerated hanteur of their models. But most interestingly, they also latch on to the ambivalence, the undertone of Depression-era futility that accompanies the elegant escapism of the Astaire-Rogers vehicles.
All three dancers are clad in ballroom formals, but Spalding - in a mannish white pantsuit with a black cummerbund - is a strange, hermaphrodic figure figure who both partners and is partnered. The effect is no underscore the tension between the poker-faced formality of the style and the sombre, equivocal passion that flickers out in the steps and poses of the dance.
"A Fine Romance" will be repeated at noon today through Friday and at 3 p.m. Saturday.