Glen Echo Dance Theater has conferred upon not only itself, but the whole dance community, a great boon in taking Pola Nirenska into its fold as artistic adviser. Nirenska, now over 70, has recently broken a decade-old retirement to share once again the fruits of a long and distinguished career as a dancer, choreographer and teacher.
The combination of her innate talent, her age and experience, both here and abroad, lends her work a depth and authority that have few parallels hereabouts. By becoming active again, she is thus bestowing on her youthful colleagues not only invaluable counsel, but also an inspirational model of a very high order.
All this was reflected in the Glen Echo program this past weekend at Publick Playhouse, which saw not only a repeat performance of Nirenska's boldly chiseled "Three Sculptures" (1965), reconstructed for a program last August, but also a further and no less memorable revival of her "Double Concerto In D-Minor for Violin, Oboe and Strings."
The Opus, created in 1966, takes its name from its J.S. Bach score, (more familiar in its original key of C Minor), and in retrospect, Nirenska had dedicated it to Doris Humphrey, with whom she studied intensively. In fact, the choreography is so thoroughly steeped in the Humphrey idiom that even an expert might be deceived as to its authorship. Yet, paradoxically, there's no feeling of mimicry about it. The tilting and curvilinear shapes, the musically motivated ebb and flow, and lucid spatial counterpoint all evoke Humphrey. Yet the work has the freshness and immediacy of an original vision.
The middle adagio movement, transcribing Bach's pleading cantabile into the songful billowing and sinking of six reclining, closely huddled dancers, is especially beautiful. This is an homage that flatters both its maker and its honoree in equal degree.
The program's other two novelties, by Nancy Galeota and Glen Echo director Jan Tievsky, looked more like insufficiently developed studies than finished work. Galeota's "Galapagos" had a kind of neo-primitive atmosphere reinforced by Jill Romanoke's stylized shrubbery, and some interestingly twitchy movement to go with it, but the dance as a whole remained inscrutable in underlying intent. Tievsky's solo "Incantation," like her earlier trio "Spectrum" (which opened the program), was defeated by the pallor of its choreographic contents.