The moments of mystery created by the Natonal Dance Company of Senegal remain distinct; the abundance of virtuosity tends to merge into one endless stamping dance. The mysteries involved humans and creatures: young hunters on their first kill, women praying to conceive and bear, an animal that has died in agony lingering in spirit to revenge itself, an phantom tall as a tree swaying jealously. Pause as well as movement gave these incidents dramatic life.
More often, in the program that these familiar visitors brought to the Warner Theatre last night for the opening of a six-day run, the dancing cut loose. There was an orgy of individual and group variations on feet that drummed on the ground. Technically, the step work was incredible. When it was direct up-and-down stamping, the performers resembled sewing machines, so rapid and clear were the motions. With the insertion of side kicks, they became a spinning jenny. A few of the dancers added full turns or complex jumps, which tended to be less effective because they interrupted the hypnotic beat of stamp, stamp and stamp. Even a man on a single stilt, in extraordinary balance, stamped it into the floor.
Supple upper torsos were used, as well as hip and hand motions of some subtlety. One dance in which the women alternately opened their arms and then folded them, placing a finger under the chin, was especially beguiling. But, soon, the stamping would overwhelm all other types of movement.
Muscal interludes were a relief from the persistent dance tattoos. Soloists on a lyre-like instrument, on a pipe and on a relative of the xylophone -- like the instants of pathos -- showed that Senegal's folk art is not totally exhibitionist.