Dana Reitz, the New York dancer-choreographer who made her area debut at the Washington Project for the Arts last night, is first of all a performer of inescapable charisma. She's notably attactive, but there's also a suggestion of Randolph Scott about her long, rangy line and visage. She has a way of extending her arm like the opening of a telescope, until it seems lengthier than her whole body -- elongation is one of her specialities. One of the things she did when she appeared in Robert Wilson's "Einstein on the Beach" five years ago was to sit facing upstage and wag her hair from side to side: It sounds trivial, but it was spellbinding. You get the feeling you could watch her shelling peas or carrying luggage and it would be a movement experience of special moment.
Her program consisted of two solos, the first a composite of two works, "Phrase Collection" and "Single Score," and a second called "Steps." As she began "Steps" with a flapping of the forearms, she explained with a shy chuckle, "It starts like this -- I take a simple rhythum and keep extending it." The formula is apt for both pieces. What she gives us is a stream of movement consciousness. It looks improvised, but it's so meticulous in shape and dynamics it could be entirely prefabricated.
Most of the movement is peripheral to the torso, involving arms, hands, head and feet, and much of it looks to be abstracted from quotidian activities -- patting dough, brushing aside cobwebs, testing winds, spooling up kite string and so forth. But like other members of the post-post-modern dance generation, Reitz seems to be interested primarily in the intrinsic qualities of such movement. As compositions, however, these monochromatic solos -- despite patterns of recurrence and recombination -- fall into that twilight zone between "research" (exploration of movement possibilities) and finished communication. Still, the fascination is powerful.