Dance abounds with tales of murder, vengeance and violence committed by monsters, enchanted maidens and/or pioneers, but it's hard, off-hand, to think of a dance which has as its subject a polygamous family of 19th-century Mormons. Bill Evans' "Legacy" does, with an incest subplot tossed in for spice. This one-act dance drama, choreographed in 1972 to music by Harold Shapero which the Bill Evans Dance Company presented last night at Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater, showed what the opening program did not: that Evans can make a point succinctly, and in a consistent style.
The story of "Legacy" is rather simple. The domestic tranquility of a typical, three-wife Mormon family is shattered when the youngest wife has a brief flirtation with the first wife's son, all observed and reported on by the jealous second wife. The idea of the story is fresher then the manner in which it is told -- the choreography looks a bit like hyper-kinetic Tudor -- but Evans tells his story with absolute clarity, and solely in dance terms. The choreography defines character as well as it advances plot. The crabbed, sharp kicks the second wife offers the third tell as much about her as the spiteful glower on her face.
Evans himself danced the role of the all-just and all-merciful patriarch; Gregg Lizenbery was the weak and wayward son. The three wives were brought to life by Shirley Jenkins as the calm, peacemaking first wife; Debbie Poulsen as the miserable middle one; and Rachael Brumer, as the wife with the wandering eye.
Evans' esthetically polygamous "Mixing It Up" completed the program.