Murray Louis wasn't dancing Saturday night (he's just undergone knee surgery), when his troupe -- the Murray Louis Dance Company -- appeared at Carter Barron Dance Theater. Yet hardly a moment passed when he didn't seem palpably present on stage. This wans't because the company consists of Louis' clones; on the contrary, the eight highly skilled dancers of the ensemble are clearly individuals, however intent they may be on stylistic accord. But Louis' choreography inevitably impressed on them all a certain Lousi look -- the movement he has invented is clearly a projection of his own gifts and proclivities as a dancer.
The most striking trait of this movement comes from Louis' mastery of what dancers call "isolation" -- the independent articulation of various body parts so that, for example, a shoulder, a hip and a knee all go their own ways, each with a different direction, tempo, accent and energy. This isolation often tends to make the dancers look as if they are responding to the caprice of external forces, pulled hither and yon simultaneously by warring puppeteers. It also paves the way for the exercise of Louis' considerable wit through the use of comic disjunction -- a heroic arm and a dropping chest, for instance.
An idiom heavily dependent on isolation, however, has very particualr dangers, and Saturday night's program -- consisting of "Schubert," "Porcelain Dialogues," "Figura" and "Glances" -- showed that Louis isn't immune to them. Balanced against the choreographic ingenuities and spatial clarity was the sense of embellishement grown so out-of-hand as to obscure the main design.
A certain sameness of activity, moreover, seems to pervade a Louis program over the long haul. "Glances," to an engaging Brubeck score, is relatively free of these drawbacks; its distinctive choreographic profile made it the most consistently engrossing opus of the evening.