Dance Place had a right to be proud at its first birthday party. It has more than survived a year: It has contributed immensely to the dance life of the city by providing performance space for both imported and home-grown dancers and choreographers. Last year's season was a success and this year's promises much. In view of all this, it's a shame that the faculty concert which opened the season was a bit of a drag.
In large part, this was a result of programming. When several choreographers with individual styles band together, the mix may not always make for a balanced evening. The works presented last weekend were in either in a heavy, "experimental" mode or a frothy, light one. Rather than being complementary, the two canceled each other.
Experimental dance should be exciting, daring, and make one's mind churn with new ideas. Unfortunately, at least as practiced hereabouts, experimental dance has become derivative, arid, dull. Lonna Wilkinson's new "Via" could be considered a work in progress; her program note indicates that the piece is a drawing board for a later work. It has an ingenious "score" of syllables, words, phrases and sentences that build into paragraphs from Virginia Woolf. The dancing has a different, less obvious, logic.
"Via's" dancers state, modify and repeat phrases of movement that seem unconnected to each other or even to themselves. The movements are not inherently interesting enough to sustain the dance. Wilkinson's strong point remains her command of structure. What is missing is energy and imagination.
Two pieces stood out from the rest. Cathy Paine's solo "Yesterday" was a dance diary full of quirks and kinetic quips. Paine announced a different day of the week before each movement phrase, dancing and miming the trials and rewards of an active dancer.
Carla Perlo and Phillip Baltazar's "Views" was a duet full of movement interest. The dancers began as twins, became mirror images, ended separately. Baltazar's balletic movements should have been out of context on this program, but blended in surprisingly well.
The dancing throughout was at an extraordinarily high level. It's good to report that Washington dancers are moving again -- runs, leaps, and off-balance surprises were the order of the evening.