The Beverly Brown Dancensemble: Theater for Bodies and Voices made its Washington debut at the Marvin Theater last night in a program that was fascinating in concept, elegant in its plastic contours, often beguiling, and withal somewhat wispy in emotional impact.
As the group's name suggests, the dancers utter sounds as they move -- chanted vocalizations and non-verbal syllables. The sounds aren't "accompaniment," except incidentally -- they are a means of extending the range of the dance from the purely corporeal onto an aural plane. From the audience standpoint, the idea is that you don't merely see the movement impulse, you hear it as well.
Brown's movement idiom also has distinctive aspects. From a smooth, angst-free elasticity, she evolves a wealth of motifs and phrases, often evocative of nature. The line is mostly curving and undulant -- snaking arms, swaying waists, rolling hips -- and weight seems to ooze through the dancers' bodies like oil. Though rhythms are frequently regular in pulse, the dominant impression if of liquescent flow.
These traits and others were variously manifest in the four works of last night's program, ranging from a solo and a duet to two group pieces for the troupe's six dancers. "Life in a Drop of Pond Water" played imaginatively with aquarian images, including crabs scuttling across a beach. The compelling duet for Brown and Roger Tolle, "Balada," explored forms and meanings of intimacy -- its most directly erotic section made the point that lovers can be most separate when closest together.
The spongy dynamics and unrelieved euphoria, though, can become cloying: many shades of ecstasy but none of agony -- life isn't like that.