Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The Dance Spectacular at Wolf Trap Monday night, imported with additions from the American edition of the Spoleto Festival at Charleston, S.C., succeeded in spite of itself.
Given the inevitable unwieldiness of a dance program held together solely by the notion of a tribute to a single composer - Leos Janacek, who died 50 years ago - it's amazing that so much quality emerged from the evening.
It's hard to know whether the victory over the initial odds is more of a tribute to producer Joseph Wishy's ingenuity or his luck, or maybe both.
At any rate, the success was genuine, bolstered as it was by contributions of such dance notables as Erik Bruhn (who did not appear in Charleston), Edward Villella, Lawrence Rhodes, Sallie Wilson and Leslie Browne, along with a host of others less well known to local audiences but none the less distinguished for that fact.
The point of departure for all this was the rich, effusive, often folk-inspired but highly individual musical idiom of Czech composer Janacek, a still underplayed and underappreciated figure despite the boost his reputation has experienced in recent years.
Of the eight dance works on the program set to Janacek scores ranging from opera to orchestral works to chamber and piano pieces, two were revivals; the rest were all created specially for the tribute. Especially under these circumstances, it's remarkable how little bad choreography resulted, and how high the general level seemed.
This goes double for the dancing of the participants, which was almost uniformly excellent.
To begin with the best of the newly created works, there was Jiri Kylian's brilliantly exultant version of the Janacek "Sinfonietta." The conclusion, a stunning burst of leaping entrances and lifts by the members of The Netherlands Dance Theater, gathering to a frozen tableau with the dancers facing upstage, and ending with a slow, majestic march rearward, had the crowd roaring and cheering before the curtain fell, and with good reason.
Kylian began choreographing for the Stuttgart Ballet, moved to the Dutch company and is now its artistic director. The sweep, quirky invention and natural musicality of "Sinfonietta" remind one of Paul Taylor, as do numerous individual passages of the work.
Washingtonians might well also be put in mind of Choo San Goh - Kylian commands a similar kinetic propulsion, shows the same flair for striking imagery, the same penchant for swift flurries of exits and entrances.
Erik Bruhn, who hasn't danced this much in ages, partnered the lovely Karen Tessmer of the National Ballet of Canada in the world premiere of "In the Mists" by Constantin Patsalas. The choreography reflects the elegiac tone of the piano vignettes. Bruhn glowed with his nobility of old, recalling that he's one of the century's greats: Tessmer matched him with subtly shaded dynamics.
"In the Mists" had something of the flavor of Antony Tudor in its wan romanticism. So did "The Overgrown Path," set to other Janacek piano music by Edward Villella and danced with soft rapture by Villella himself, Anna Aragno and Leslie Browne. Tudor himself was represented on the program by a wistful "Sunflowers," looking like a sketch for his "The Leaves Are Fading" and sensitively rendered by an ensemble from the North Carolina Dance Theatre.
Wilfride Poillet and Jean Guizerix, principals of the Paris Opera Ballet, danced exquisitely in a "Cunning Little Vixen" pas de deux, charmingly designed by Norbert Schmucki.
I also like the playful cleverness of Kathryn Posin's "Youth," with its references to children's games, so smartly performed by Posin and her troupe. Gilbert Reed's "The Fiddler's Child's was choreographically banal and dramatically murky, but Lawrence Rhodes and Sallie Wilson gave it a semblance of their own eloquence. The opening Lachian Dance, neatly performed by the Limbora Slovak Ensemble, of sophisticated music and native folk steps.
The evening's rewards, however, far outweighed its flaws.