"Big Savings! 8 Dances for $3.50!" screamed the posters outside the tiny, slightly run-down Bethesda headquarters of the newly-formed D.C. Dance Center. For once, the hype was worth it. Despite the heat, the limited performing space and the raw technical facilities, some genuinely novel choregraphy was brought to life Saturday night by seven gifted dancers.
Greg Simione's "Froids," to a jangly, disquieting score by Stockhausen, hit hardest. It's a duet -- danced deftly and audaciously by the tall, lean Simione and small, muscular Josie Barilla -- filled with percussive, stop-and-start, often humorous gestures. Hands whir around like eggbeaters, arms wrap about the chest, creeper-crawler fingers travel up and down the body. aSometimes the pair seems to be stalking each other, but then they mash together front to back and move limply in unison. Simione doesn't get carried away by his cleverness; gestures may reappear, but never bore; jokes are subtle and skillfully placed.
Frances Cohen's "Down in the Valle" is an old-fashioned story ballet that actually works. Set to Kurt Weill songs (sung beautifully by Christopher Hux), Saturday's shortened version began with a man (Geoffrey Harrison) thrashing and pacing about his jail cell, introduced the woman in his life (Shelley Chaffin North), then brought the two together in a moving duet that dealt with their unencumbered past. Cohen's taut yet lyrical movement vocabulary calls to mind early Graham; all those slow, elastic leg extensions, cradling arms, elbows pressing backwards and wild jumps speak eloquently of specific emotional states, and Harrison and North imbue the dance with real understanding and weight.
And the other dances? Most were slight but well-crafted, several rather aimless. Kathy O'Brien did a hand dance to Chick Corea, and performed Diane Floyd's tentative, unfurling "Eve" with much intensity and daring. Lynda Gattozzi's "Future Perfect" was a competitive lark between two jazz dancers, while her "This Trio Has No Exits" used ballet and the notion of two vs. three as its foundation. Bruce Nolen's vague "Inbound" featured Rosemary Nolen as a woman trapped by her boundaries. And in North's "If I Should Die Before I Wake," the choreograper and Gattozzi played cat-and-mouse with the help of an eerie white mask, Pink Floyd and a lengthy exchange of furtive glances, crouches and runs.