The performance last night by Johanna Boyne and Group at the Washington Project for the Arts was, alas, the final dance event (aside from weekend repeats by Boyce) that will take place at 1227 G St. NW, the site WPA is being forced to vacate. This is a great blow to those who care about the spirit of daring WPA has stood for -- WPA will go on, but this space was unique in dimension and atmosphere, and for six wonderful years it's been the major port of call for the performing arts vanguard in the city.
It's a shame too, that the parting event turns out to be rather an esthetic washout.The work of Boyce, who's excited considerable attention in New York (her home base) and elsewhere, is certainly true to WPA's untraditional thrust, and to its welcoming of risk. But it also seems depressingly reactionary and insubstantial.
At first Blush, Boyce's dances suggest a throwback to the '60s in their deployment of untrained dancers, unconventional body types, collective creation and prosaic movement. The '60s' mavericks, though, were taking a stand, making a statement -- Boyce, by contrast, seems to be going out of her way to avoid saying anything, or at least, anything worth saying.
And so we get a hollow semblance of Judson-era dance, without the guts. "Work in Progress," a colloboration with Haim Steinbach, is a ramshackle collage involving four dancers doing sloppy rolls, crawls, falls and the like; sound ranging from phrases in several languages to disco to "Don Giovanni"; and slide projections, of wallpaper, Persian rugs and the Manhattan skyline. The piece, with its intermittent emphasis on grids and geometry, may be intended as a comment on conformity. If so, it's too bland to register as such; if not, it keeps its concerns well hidden.
"Only connect . . .," the second offering, has a frisky edge; eight dancers enter in mangy animal costumes, and there are other juvenile gags. The first four sections feature lifts and carries, a parody of Latin style, a question-answer period and games with a rubber ball. These are then varied in reverse order, after a solo for Boyce herself mixing an autobiographical monologue with ungainly poses and maneuvers.
Both works appear to be exercises in lifelessness. The choreographers of the '60s had revolution on their minds, but Boyce's punk dances seem to be headed in the direction of infantile regression.