A beguilingly eccentric new pas de deux by the Washington Ballet's increasingly renowned resident choreographer Choo San Goh was the highlight of last night's City Dance opening at the Warner Theatre. At the same time, Goh's "Casual Moments" was a symbol of advancing initiative for the four-year-old annual festival -- the work was specially commissioned for City Dance, which for the first time has taken the step of engendering new choreography.
This first of the festival's three evenings also bore further witness to the lively diversity of area dance activity, in a program that embraced idioms ranging from contemporary ballet to jazz to flamenco to middle-of-the-road modern dance.
One could not help sensing too, though, that the bloom of novelty has worn off.The crowd, though substantial (perhaps 1,200), was appreciably smaller than at previous City Dance openings, and decidedly less vociferous in its enthusiasm. Perhaps the public is coming to take the profusion and vitality of Washington dance somewhat for granted. In any case, the electricity generated by the festival's past was, if not absent, then considerably diminished in voltage.
Nevertheless, "Causal Moments" received a warm welcome. Among other things, it confirmed that Goh is far from having exhausted the surprises he has in store for us, and perhaps for himself as well. It has many by now recognizable Goh traits -- speed, brightness of invention, musicality (the score is Witold Lutoslawski's pungently neoclassic "Dance Preludes") among them. But in look, feel and choreographic particulars, it seems notably fresh.
Against a project skyscraper backdrop, Goh's couple (the very engaging Lynn Cote and John Goding) appear to be a guy and a gal footloose in city streets. From Goding's opening macho pose and Cote's slinky first solo, the two are literally all over each other, as the duet becomes, by turns, teasing, sexy, hostile, affectionate and playful. Somehow, it all seems summed up in Cote's recurring hand gesture -- part come-on, part kiss-off.
Elsewhere, the Eva Anderson Dancers gave Eleo Pomare's overlong but cutting "Impasse" an aptly blunt tension.
Alexandria's CODA troupe was seen at its best in Victoria Hileman's dewy "Celebration" and Jan Van Dyke's structurally witty "Six Sections of Orange." Raquel Pena's sizzling heel work made for a thrilling finale.