Watching a performace by the Matteo Ethno American Dance Theater is somewhat like wolfing down an international meal of curry, enchildas, sushi and apple pie. Served separately, each dish would be fine, but put them together and indigestion is bound to ensue.
Last evening's "Crossroads of Ethnic Dance" program, part of the Kennedy Center's continuing Imagination Festival, left one with a feeling of artistic, rather than physical, quesiness.
In an hour-and-a-half's time, the troupe offered short, often questionable versions of the Spanish flamenco, Indian Bharata Natyam, a Bedouin sword dance, a Japanese mask dance, a Yemenite folk dance and many other well-known numbers. Certainly each selection was flashy and accessible, each dancer competent, each costume alluring. But alas, where were the subtleties?
Matteo's mugging during the "Cosmic Dance of Shiva" reduced this delicate Indian dance to biatant sign language and facial contortions. Noh theater came across as vaudeville. By far the strangest and most tasteless works were those choregraphed by Matteo himselp, "Lord of the Dance," a solo performed to "Simple Gifts," the traditional Shaker hymn, combined classical Indian gestures with overt references to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.
Originality cropped up but once, in the person of Carola Goya, a Ruth Gordon look-alike who plays a mean set of castanets. Her wild, rhythmic accompaniment to De Falla's "La Vida Breve" conjured up images of firecrackers, tap dancers and thunderbolts.