Part of the pattern of the delightful Glen Echo Summer Dance Festival this year has been Sunday afternoon double-headers, and this was the case yesterday as Cathy Paine and Friends offered a program of solos and ensemble pieces for the top half, and Beth Corning presented an all-solo anthology called "Second Take" for the bottom.
Paine is a "conceptual" choreographer in the sense that she's mastered the knack of transforming ideas into statements. The ideas she chooses aren't large, metaphysical propositions, but small, often ironical, usually personal observations, and the only thing dry about them is their wit. The two least familiar works of her Glen Echo program -- the recent "Yesterday" and the older "Swan Song," both solos for Paine herself -- were typical in these respects. "Yesterday," with no musical accompaniment but some verbal tag lines declaimed by Paine, is a dancer's diary, distilling a five-week cycle of inspiration and confusion, fitness and injury, euphoria and blahs,into a series of telling images. The work reflects not only moods and incidents, but the ways in which a dancer experiences the passage of time. And it ends with a gesture of reaching out.The performance -- Paine is easily one of the best dancers in the area -- was as acute as the perception.
"Swan Song" is a "sight gag" that can be interpreted in several ways.As Paine soulfully traverses a diagonal with fluttering arms (to Saint-Saens' "The Swan"), a cascade of beer cans, newspapers and other litter is tossed onto the stage from both wings -- this juxtaposition of sentimental cliche and heedless pollution is wryly funny in itself; its implications are less funny but more wry. Also on the Paine program were her ensemble pieces "Bedtime Story" and the increasingly impressive, impressionistic "Rain."
Corning studied with Jose Limon, Charles Weidman and others of their generation, and her program looked like a series of throwbacks. Doris Humphrey's "Two Ecstatic Themes' was the real thing, a work from 1931 that hasn't lost its force or poetic luminosity. But the rest of the pieces -- by Karen Bell, Marcus Schulkind, Peter Sparling and Corning herself -- had a feeling of artificial respiration about them. Superficially there were contrasts enough -- Bell's "White Bucks" is bouncily athletic; Schulkind's solo from "Ladies Night Out" is in the blues mode; Sparling's "Elegy" and Corning's "One Red Herring" are introspective reveries. All, however, looked too hackneyed to leave much trace in memory.
Corning, tall and full in figure, has appealing presence and gives her dancing a real sense of immersion in her material. But she doesn't have quite the technical control or fluency for a solo program.