It didn't look like the same group that danced here three years ago, despite its having basically the same personnel. Then, there was a certain hesitation in technical forays, the dancers seemed isolated from each other and there was no attempt to suppress those random sounds made during physical exertion that "distract" a non-deaf audience from the visual and musical aspects of movement. Last night at Gallaudet College, for its second Washington appearance, the American Deaf Dance Company performed boldly -- as individuals, partners and ensemble -- with not a sign that the hearing of the cast members is impaired.
For their great strides in proficiency, the dancers deserved those audience cheers even if one regrets so total a normalization.
The program consisted of three works by Yacov Sharir, the company's director and choreographer. In "Shapes," he used the dancers not as characters with bodies but as slowly evolving geometric forms and building blocks. "Right to Left" was a fast-paced set of stage crossings with rhythmically complex steps for a cast of six, plus bravura for the two men, Jimmy Turner and Mario Illi. The performers' phrasing was remarkably clear, and the unison work in the finale exemplary.
Sharir favored acrobatics, even in his subtlest piece -- the moody "Variations." He achieved different textures with this type of movement, but the shape of the works was too episodic.