Saturday evening found the Joyce Trisler Danscompany looking appreciably sharper and stronger in a second program at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater than it had for the Dance America series opening Friday night. The dancing was more coherent, bolder in attack and smoother, though there was still a tendency to move things forward phrase by phrase, instead of reaching for a longer, fuller line. The women of the company seem, on the whole, defter and more confident than the men; the most outstanding contributions came from Nancy Long, who was once Trisler's assistant, Deborah Salmirs and Diane Grumet.
Long was particularly impressive in the stabbing, twisting lamentations of the solo "Elegie," one of three pieces by Danscompany director Milton Myers set to music by Stravinsky and coupled together as a sort of suite. Myers' choreography in these works holds up rather well on a second viewing -- he uses the Horton-Trisler movement vocabulary with noteworthy skill and musicality. There are problems too, however. The Stravinsky pieces, from three very different periods in the composer's life, don't make much sense as a group, nor do the dances that go with them. More important, the dance idiom looks antiquated, out of touch with contemporary choreographic concerns -- it was already "old-fashioned" in Trisler's hands, and it appears even more so coming from the youthful Myers. Still, Myers has a clear gift, and it's a shame that the forced cancellation of the new "Bachianas" didn't permit us to see his most recent work.
As for Gray Veredon's cryptic battle-of-the-sexes ritual, "koan," with its vaguely Hindu stylization in music and choreography, the lingering question was, why bother? There seemed nothing either in choreographic content or manner to justify its excruciating lenght.
Yesterday afternoon's special joint tribute to the neglected West Coast dance pioneer Lester horton and Joyce Trisler, who was one of his most accomplished pupils and colleagues, was tantalizing but less than completely fulfilling. Host Walter Terry, the noted dance critic and author, provided chatty, anecdotal and informative resumes of the careers of Horton and Trisler, as well as comments on their individual contributions to the art. But the Trisler class demonstration, conducted by Myers, would have benefited from a more ample verbal explanation, including a more detailed comparison with other movement techniques. The excerpts from the Danscompany's Denishawn program, moreover, as well as from Trisler's "Four Against the Gods" and "Four Temperaments," barely grazed the subjects they were intended to illumine, and horton's own work was conspicuously, mystifyingly absent. Maybe the trouble was that the program tried to cover too much ground in too short a time; in any case, it seemed frustratingly thin.