There's something sadly futile in the sight of virtuoso technique being expended in the service of confused and unsatisfying artistic material, which was pretty much the case with this past weekend's program by Wimmer, Wimmer and Dancers at Dance Place.
Both the troupe's name and some of its publicity are slightly, if unintentionally, misleading. WWD was formed three years ago in Salt Lake City by sisters Lynne and Gayle Wimmer, the artistic director and artistic designer, respectively. Lynne is a Juilliard graduate and a veteran of Utah's Repertory Dance Theatre; Gayle has degrees from Pratt and Tyler and is an artist who works with fiber. The troupe has had residencies in the past at two Washington universities; at GWU, a concert featured collaborative work of the two.
At Dance Place, though, Gayle Wimmer's contributions were nowhere to be seen. Instead, the troupe performed two ambitious, 40-minute dance theater pieces choreographed and directed by Lynne Wimmer. She goes in for large-scale conceptions involving complexities of characterization and atmosphere, and intricate meshing of sound, words, decor, mime and dance. She not only has strong command over each of these elements, but a sturdy eye for their effective fusion. And the seven dancers seem equally versatile, as adept at swift dramatic portraiture as they are at mime and movement.
The works themselves, however, were not lucid, involving or likable. For one thing, there's no point of entry for empathy--both pieces seemed prevailingly misanthropic. For another, one was never sure of the intended tone or attitude. "Dances From Goya" is obscured from the start by an assumed familiarity with certain paintings and by arcane poetry that is part of the work's ambiance. There are images of savagery, brute machismo sexuality and aristocratic degeneracy, but it's hard to know whether these are supposed to constitute irony or reportage. Goya's art, moreover, has a compassionate dimension that wasn't visible in Wimmer's treatment at all.
"Small Legends," which utilizes strobe effects and a tape collage, is presumably comedy, a sort of "Our Town" with sniggers, depicting the souring of youthful romance into middle-aged Babbittry. But it lacks a comic touch--it isn't cutting enough for acid satire, and it isn't light or amusing enough for farce. And once again, we're unsure of Wimmer's feelings toward her characters and their situations. One is left with the impression that the profusion of Wimmer's talents remains uncrystallized, and that she has yet to discover the form or genre that will permit her a more natural expression of her ideas.