CODA (an acronym for Contemporary Dancers of Alexandria), which gave its latest series of performances at the Dance Place this weekend, is an anomaly among Washington-area companies. It was founded two years ago as an outgrowth of the dance studio of Veteran teacher Hedi Pope, who now serves as CODA's artistic director. There's a blithe eagerness and companionability about the troupe that are disarming enough to make one wish the repertory and dancing had more bite. Flaccidity, however, appears to be the prevailing characteristic of both.
"Contemporary," moreover, seems an odd choice of label for a group so singularly devoted to idioms, modes and subject matter of the past. There'd be nothing to question in this if the choreographic vocabulary were somehow updated or recharged, but what we see, generally speaking, is a lackluster melange of styles for which the only apt term is "old-fashioned." The dancing follows suit -- it's well-rehearsed and well-groomed, but apart from individual niceties here and there, it has no dynamic foundation or edge; it's soft to the core.
The bland period nostalgia of Jeff Duncan's "Knoxville: Summer of 1915" simply left one bewildered: what were we doing in the atmosphere of "Our Town" in 1981? The sentimental plastique of Nancy Smith's "Loom" (a premiere) and "Memoir," as well as Betsy Eagan's "Nightmare," was scarely less puzzling; flimsy choreographic structure didn't help. By far the most successful items of the program were the humorous ones -- Martha Brim's manic "Human Beanery," and "Duet," Cathy Paine's amusing gloss on rehearsal behavior.