It's a tribute to the dance aptitudes of Jennifer Donohue and Billy Siegenfeld that they could end their program at Grace Church last night with parody of Astaire and Rogers, and not appear dwarfed by their models.
The event was an auspicous start for the second annual edition of the Georgetown Dance Series, under the aegis of Murray Spalding's Movement Arts studio. Donohue and Siegenfeld, longtime principals with the Don Redlich troupe, have been choreographing and dancing as a team since 1975. The long-limbed patrician-cheeked Donohue and muscular, mustachioed Siegenfeld have neatly complementary stage personalities, and both are technically polished. They are particularly skilled in the smooth apportionment of weight and accent.
"A Swell Soiree," the Astaire-Rogers sendup, wasn't devised by either of the duo but by guest choreographer Haila Strauss, using tunes of Ellington, Gershwin and Porter. There's no attempt here at impersonation -- what the piece captures is mannerism: the exaggerated Astaire flirtation, the Rogers rebuff and feigned hauteur, the gradual ice-breaking and victory of romance, symbolized in the deep, swooning dips.
"Soiree" was by far the most accessible and, partly on that account as well as the persuasive execution, the most gratifying work on the program. The other four pieces, two each by Donohue and Siegenfeld had much to admire in the way of idea and development. But on the whole they seemed like conceptual in-jokes for dance cognoscenti -- elusive in content and dry in idiom. Donohue's "Voices," an expressionistic solo with imagery out of Kathe Kollwitz, and Siegenfeld's austerely stylized duet "Quartz Contentment," with an intriguingly astringent original score by Michael Levine, were the most convincing. The dancing was uniformly splendid.