Despite the vast expansion of Washington's dance horizons over the past decade, there still remain kinds of dance and dance companies that we rarely get to see -- among the latter are the numerous "chamber" ballet troupes which have sprung up in cities across the country. It was, therefore, a pleasure to have Carter Barron Amphitheatre bringing us the New-Haven-based, 12-member Connecticut Ballet Company in its local debut last night, however uneven the results.
Founded in 1972 by a pair of former Harkness dancers -- Robert Vickrey and his wife Robin Welch, still the artistic and associate directors, respectively -- the troupe seems bright, able and engaging on first acquaintance, with a decided flair for theatrics. How far the company stands from conventional concepts of "classical" ballet may be judged from the fact that the program opened with "Aureole," by that paragon of modern dance choreographers, Paul Taylor; that it closed with Rodney Griffin's "Misalliance," a spoof on modern-classical incompatibility; and that its centerpiece was a ballet version of "Dracula" in which, in a cast of 10, the only dancers on point were Dracula himself (!) and his daughter.
"Dracula," more a charade than a ballet, pointed up a weakness prevalent among smaller companies -- anemic repertory. It's hard to discern what point there is to the piece beyond giving resident choreographer Noble Barker a chance at a drag queen role. What nondescript dancing there is serves neither characterization nor plot -- it's all but irrelevant. It takes almost an act of divination to figure out who's who among the characters, except for the title role, and the dramatic content is unfathomable. There isn't even a sign of vampirism until two-thirds through the "action." The ineffectual use of Bartok scores as spook music only redoubles the tedium.
"Dracula" did display, to some extent, the attraction of dancer Lynne Watt, who also gave us a mordant Martha Graham impression in the passably amusing but trifling "Misalliance." Otherwise, the rewards of the evening were contained in the vivacious and surprisingly idiomatic account of "Aureole," by all odds the evening's best. For a ballet troupe to come so near to Taylor's characteristic spongy bounce, even granting the moments of technical shakiness and erratic flow, is an achievement. The lovely swerving hip solo by Lisa Peterson, one of the troupe's most impressive dancers, was outstanding.