The program by the New York-based Mel Wong Dance Company at the Dance Place this past weekend was interesting, unusual and beautifully performed, yet strangely uninvolving. Though one could not help but admire the chiseled perfection of form, the sum and substance of the works seemed wholly contained in their sleekly designed surfaces. Isn't this sufficient accomplishment? Perhaps so. But the work themselves appear to hint at a deeper import which never really discloses itself.
Wong is an artist as well as a choreographer, has had rigorous ballet training, and was a distinguished soloist with the Cunningham company before founding his own troupe in 1975. All these background elements are reflected in his dances. Like Cunningham, Wong mixes spare, quirky abstractions with distinctly balletic moves and placement. The artist in him shows up in the careful spatial compositions and the functional props. On top of all this comes a sense of ritual formula and symbolism.
The actions of "Wing-Arc" involved a row of stones, incense tapers, hand-held mirrors, and a pile of logs, scattered and reassembled. In "Streams," the dancers waded stealthily among Lucite trays filled with water. "Phones" had its ensemble of eight passing transparent tubes among themselves. But these seemingly allusive clues led nowhere, and though the dancing throughout was smooth, exact and concentrated, it all added up to a rather detached, spiritless enigma.