Any lover of dance, including this one, wants urgently to be supportive of Dance America, the series collaboration between Kennedy Center and the Washington Performing Arts Society which is bringing modern dance to the Kennedy Center in significant measure. Alas, however, last night this desire collided with a decidedly disappointing opening performance by the Joyce Trisler Danscompany, which launched the second year of the series at the Terrace Theater. Of course, one downbeat experience in no way invalidates the attraction or importance of Dance America, but it would have been nicer to have had a bright start. What we got instead was a weak program spottily performed.
Trisler's untimely death in 1979 at the age of 45 left the troupe without its chief reason for being. Milton Myers, an Ailey veteran and former Trisler dancer who took over as director last year, has had not only to sustain the company but to redefine it in his own terms -- on last night's evidence, thus far with mixed success. Only two of the current 10 dancers remain from the troupe's first exciting visit to this city in 1978, while Trisler was still in charge, and the new ensemble is patently rough around the edges.
One of last night's problems was due to fate -- an injury to a dancer prevented the scheduled world premiere of a Myers opus. In its place came the first local showing of a trio of Myers pieces to music by Stravinsky -- solid, well-crafted and occasionally striking work in an Ailey-ish vein, but lacking individual spark and a harmony of parts. Trisler's "Concerto in E," which followed, is a disastrously mawkish and inert "Romeo and Juliet" distillation to a lugubriously unsuitable Chopin score. The impassioned kinetics of the finale, Trisler's "Four Temperaments," have much choreographic validity, but the dancing wasn't consistently equal to the demands. The company has another program and a special matinee coming -- maybe better prospects are in store.