When choregrapher Jan Van Dyke left her well-established Adams-Morgan studio last spring for the wilds of New York City, much was made of the migration. Would the local dance scene suffer? Would Van Dyke survive in the Big Apple?
Now, six months later, it's clear that one artist's departure cannot topple an energetic community of dance people. And, after watching Van Dyke and her small company of women stamp and fall and mingle so beautifully during Thursday evening's performance at Washington Project for the Arts (as part of her week-long residency as fifth and final artist in the Washington Dance Series), it's equally apparent that the choreographer's change of locale has coincided with, and perhaps inspired, a compelling change in her dances. Rhythm has become her raison d'etre, the manipulation of meter her favorite cerebal exercise.
Rhythm has brought a wonderful precision, focus and understated passion to Van Dyke's most recent works. "Untitled Duet," with its risky dorps, odd, affecting hand gestures (palms meeting in prayer, wrists flinging out as if to shake off drops of water, hands cradling the nape of the neck), and mutual support systems, is as much about the relationship between two women (Anne Farmer and Susie Whipp) as it is about counterpoint. "Double Times" (danced with utmost conviction by its creator) deals directly with the doubling and tripling of a complex pattern, but the clenched fist, the unexpected fall, the sundial shifts of direction and focus send out messages about strength and fear and one woman's power. And "Stamping Dance," with its four hardy, foot-stomping ladies entering and exiting and reentering like deadpan ducks in a shooting gallery, comes off not only as a celebration of firecrackerish tapping and jumping and rhythmic bounty, but of community, cooperation and physical abandon.
The program, which also includes "Two Dances in One Space" and "The Passenger," will be repeated tonight and Sunday at 8 p.m.