It's hard to preserve critical detachment in watching the choreography of Lar Lubovitch. The dances he creates are so kinesthetically seductive one tends to lose oneself in the delirium of the movement. And it's an effect that's greatly magnified by the dancers of the Lubovitch company, who themselves seem so completely immersed in the choreographic process that they become one with it. At the same time, one wants to stand back, to take stock and see what makes these Lubovitch works tick, because they tick so effectively and in such compellingly intricate patterns.
Such thoughts were prompted by last night's display at Tawes Theatre, where the Lubovitch troupe capped a three-week teaching residency at the University of Maryland with a performance of a Lubovitch sampler covering roughly a decade of creative effort. One outcome of the program was a sense of arrival -- at 37, and as much as anyone of his generation, Lubovitch appears to have established a firm beachhead on the shifting sands of contemporary dance. He's made his mark, with a distinctively original style and a number of durable works that have entered the mainstream repertory -- works like the classic of black humor and angst. "Whirlgogs" (1971); like the duet, "The Time Before the Time After (After the Time Before)" (1970), exploring the compulsions and torments of modern sexuality; and like the Lubovitch "economy version of Stravinsky's "Les Noces" (1976).
Two of these -- "Les Noces" and "The Time Before" -- were on last night's program, along with "Exultate Jubilate" (1976) to the Mozart motet, and the more recent "North Star" (1978) to one of Philip Glass' "pulse music" scores. Together they showed the recurring Lubovitch traits -- an eclectic array of movement materials from classic and modern sources, blended into a strongly curvilinear, thrusting idiom; a penchant for ritualistic themes and imagery; and an insistence on specific emotional content and coloration.
Each work, however, also has a distinctive core of its own. "Exultate" translates Mozart's florid ecstasies into a swirl of flung limbs, careening torsos and triumphant leaps. "The Time Before" makes the interlocking of its couple into a metaphor for a sexual tug of war. "Les Noces" is a stylized rustic nuptial scene, pithy, concise and disarming. And "North Star" is an apotheosis of the ancient chain dance, a tidal dithyramb. The performances were as convincing as the choreography.