The appearance by Hannah Kahn and Dancers at the Dance Project this weekend corroborated anew the trenchant impression left by the New York-based troupe in its debut Washington performances a little over a year ago. Two new male dancers joined the same four women as before, including director-choreographer Kahn, in a program again demonstrating choreography of striking originality and vigor, as well as performances of exceptional punch and precision.
Kahn, to recapitulate a bit, is a Juilliard graduate who has also studied with Cunningham, Sanasardo and others, and founded her own troupe in 1974. But one reason her work appears so fresh is that it bears scant trace of external influence.
There are, to be sure, superficial resemblances to Twyla Tharp, particularly in the speed and quirkiness of figural movement. But despite occasional witty overtones, there's none of Tharp's cool smirking in Kahn's work, and though the movement is rapidfire, the effect is one of galvanic response rather than fussiness or overembellishment.
There are stronger, methodological links, perhaps, with Paul Taylor, which manifest themselves not in any surface similarity but in a highly individualized use of music.
Kahn's pieces are "abstract," i.e., devoid of obvious narrative content. Here and there, literalisms pop up, as in "Dahses and Bolts," set to three movements from Mozart's G Minor Quintet, where a sort of treasure hunt and game of chase enliven the finale; or in "Limb Song," where the ballad "Goodbye, My Ladylove" gets some quickie illustration by way of waving hands.
But by and large, the movement is the message, and Kahn's movement takes its shape and peculiar sense of traction from the music -- not by a note-for-note "translation" into dance gesture, but by extending, ramifying or complementing the underlying musical impulse.
All of Kahn's dancers seem expert. Kahn herself is a soloist of marked intensity, as she showed in her solo, "Passage." Teri Weksler, however, has a singular charisma, as she proved afresh in "Ring," a duet with Mark Morris.