In terms of company rapport and precision, the Arlington Dance Theatre appeared to be in splendid shape Friday night, opening a weekend of performances at the Thomas Jefferson Community Theatre. At the same time, lacking the kind of creative direction a resident choreographer might confer, the troupe still seems to be groping for a viable artistic identity.
In general level of execution and production values, ADT is plainly superior to most such community-based endeavors, and under the recent direction of Carmen Mathe, the dancing has a acquired a more consistently polished look. The choreographic fare, however, remains depressingly pallid and conventional, never daring beyond the safely middle brow.
Contemporary idioms or abstractions, it seems, are to be avoided like the plague; instead, the emphasis is on "accessible" literary or pop associations. Stuart Sebastian's "Moving Right Along," which opened the Friday program, is neatly crafted, but its incessant friskiness is of the same order as the facile, ersatz jazz by Claude Bolling to which it is set. Ben Stevenson's "Romeo and Juliet" pas de deux is a frail simulation of better-known versions and in any case requires a stronger Romeo than ADT provided. Sebastian's new "A Ceremony of Carols" has some becomingly picturesque imagery, but the rather halting choreography tends to exaggerate the preciosity of Britten's score.
That left one solid work -- Michael Lopuszanski's Tudoresque psychodrama, "Through the Edge," already a company staple. Perhaps ADT ought to consider stetching and challenging its audience a bit; nothing risked, nothing gained.