The audience's jubilation during the finale of the fourth annual City Dance Saturday night at the Warner Theatre was an echo of the elation that marked the festival's past years, and somehow it restored the celebratory air that seemed missing from the first two evenings of this year's edition. Artistically speaking, the program -- which spanned ballet, Spanish, African and modern dance -- was a decidedly mixed bag, perhaps an inevitable corollary of the festival's breadth of material.
One highlight of the evening was Jan Van Dyke's elegant "farewell" performance (she's headed for New York) of her 1973 solo, "Waltz," to Strauss' "Blue Danube." Resisting the powerful pull of Strauss toward lilt and swirl, "Waltz" spins out a stunningly slow, sustained arc of dancing that complements the music the same way that Kubrick's "2001" did with its gliding spacecraft.
Also seen was Van Dyke's recent "Stamping Dance," performed in silence by four women of her troupe in gym shorts and sneakers. In this "back to basics" opus, the dancers jog, jump, swivel and kick through a series of geometric formations. But the foot stamps and hand clapping that should have provided a dynamic framework were so overwhelming at the Warner that the work's rhythmic structure was largely obliterated.
The several flamenco routines offered by Ana Martinez and her Spanish dance troupe had their fiery moments, but they also suffered from unavoidable comparison with the work of Raquel Pena and her company, seen on the festival's opening night.
It was left to Melvin Deal's African Heritage Dancers and Drummers, one of Washington's most unfailingly expert ensembles, to conclude the festival with three superbly costumed dance pageants given performances of feverish intensity and brilliance.