Choreographer Lar Lubovitch is intoxicated with dance movement, and the "malady" is catching. His own inebriation completely permeates the 10 sleek, vibrant dancers of his troupe -- you can see it in their bearing, their eyes, and the electric contact that seems to bind them to one another even at rest. And when they are moving, their collective ecstasy in the lashings and swirlings of the Lubovich idiom pulls everyone within reach into its communal throb. After an evening of Lubovitch works, you leave in a heady state, looking down every so often to make sure your own feet are still in contact with ground.
So it was last night as the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company launched the new Dance America series at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater, in a program spanning a decade of creative effort. The evening was historic: Dance America marks the first joint dance enterprise between Kennedy Center and the Washington Performing Arts Society. Under these auspices the new series is bringing modern dance to the Center in real quantity for the first time, along with some notable post-modern and ballet events also under the Dance America umbrella.
Lubovitch was a splendid choice to inaugurate the project. His background is eclectic enough to have embraced a multitude of "schools" within the spectrum of contemporary dance, and lyet the style he has forged from so many sources his unmistakably individual. At 37, his increasingly rounded command of all aspects of the choreographic medium marks him ever more securely as a master, and there was fresh evidence of this last night.
The one work completely new to the Washington area was "Cavalcade," an abstraction for eight dancers to Steve Reich's "Octet," one of the composer's characteristic "pulse music" scores. The piece begins with an insistent ostinato thrum, an array of dancers in silver-gray unitards circling in place, then clustering to one side, then sweeping across the full stage space in great coursings punctuated by sudden leaps and floor rolls. As the rhythm slowly evolves into new patterns, the dance ensemble thins out into duets and solos, but the sections dovetail into one another without break in a manner that exactly parallels the accumulative structure of Reich's music.
The movement shapes are profuse, but they're linked by the persistence of flexing curvature and flung limbs that are Lubovitch's most conspicuous hallmarks. The energy is tidal -- it surges and ebbs, but the underlying undulation never ceases. Towards the end, the stage fills once again with all eight dancers, now whipping colored streamers into jubilantly euphoric arcs. They stop, as abruptly as the music, in a frozen burst of upward motion that seems to epitomize the whole dithyrambic message of "Cavalcade."
If "Cavalcade" bore a family resemblence to the opening "North Star," it was only a natural consequence of the kinship between the music of Reich and that of Philip Glass, as well as Lubovitch's obvious empathy with both. In any case, "North Star" remains one of the choregrapher's most persuasive compositions. Here, the interlocking chains and spirals of dancers suggest at times a play of splitting chromosomes, and at times a drama of galactic eddies and currents. The spasmodic solo for Laura Gates and the bravura one for Rob Besserer add stunning highlights.
Also on the program were "Exultate Jubilate," in which Lubovich threads the rapturous visual cantabile of the dance so enticingly into the melodies of Mozart; and "The Time Before the Time After (After the Time Before)," the choreographer's trenchant nocturne on the theme of sexual entanglement. Christine Wright, Harry Laird and Laura Gates were the impassioned soloists in "Exultate Jubilate." Nancy Colahan and Rob Besserer were the deft but rather low-key couple in "The Time Before."