The phrase that popped to mind on seeing the program by Lonna Wilkinson and Dancers at the Dance Place this past weekend was "more of the same." To say "same" isn't to say "bad"; Wilkinson's spare, cool, intellectually meticulous abstractions are precision-tooled structures, and they also reflect the kinetic sensitivity of an exceptionally skillful dancer. But as a choreographer, Wilkinson appears to be treading water. Instead of taking new risks or advancing into hitherto unexplored terrain, she seems content to ring changes on a mode already firmly established -- a mode of decidedly limited expressive scope.
The new "Solo," danced by Wilkinson in a bright red jump suit and featuring shadow-boxing, karate kicks and jogging among its movement ploys, looked very similar to last year's solo, "White Line," except for costume color and compositional motifs. Even closer was the resemblance of the two Wilkinson group works -- "Via," for seven dancers, and the new "Fit," for five -- with their staggered entrances, asymmetrical patternings and echoing imagery. The solos had an impact, due to Wilkinson's finesse and presence as a dancer, denied to the ensemble pieces, where the dancing was mostly on the callow side. Wilkinson clearly owes much in the way of concept and technique to Merce Cunningham; one would now like to see her cut loose and venture into visions more distinctively her own.
Also on the program was Beth Burkhardt's alternately spasmodic and meditative solo "Vortex," in which a similar problem was manifest -- Burkhardt's charisma as a dancer is only weakly supported by her anemic choreography.