By allowing for the informal showing of new work without the concomitant costs to individuals of mounting a concert, the Dance Place annual Choreographers Forum serves an obviously valuable function. Choreographers, especially the novices and unaffiliated ones, most of whom could not otherwise afford such an opportunity, have the chance to run their efforts past an audience and to see what they look like under performance (rather than studio) conditions. The Dance Place--which, under the enlightened direction of Carlo Perlo, already serves the Washington dance community in a host of other ways--provides the platform, the publicity and the occasion.
The artistic outcome of such an event, however, can only be as worthwhile as the components make it, separately and in sum. This year's Forum, seen Saturday night and comprising 10 works by as many choreographers, proved rather a dispiriting affair on the whole--if there are any unsung talents lurking around, they weren't surfacing here. Apart from two noteworthy exceptions, the choreographic level ranged from the hopelessly naive to the borderline competent, and the dancing wasn't appreciably better for the most part.
The exceptions, not surprisingly, came from a pair of choreographers whose work is fairly well established hereabouts--Cathy Paine and Sharon Wyrrick. Paine's "Enters My" is a carefully composed series of counterpoints between two dancers and a pair of readers who, on tape, declaim lines of poetry by e.e. cummings. Wyrrick's "Task," ritualistic in flavor, has seven dancers executing iterated geometric patterns to music of similar formal qualities. Neither work shows these choreographers at their respective best. Paine's duet lacks a sense of culmination or accent; Wyrrick still seems in search of an idiom she can comfortably call her own. But both pieces had the hallmarks of genuine choreography, which is to say both consisted of the statement and development of movement themes proceeding from specific dance impetus.
Very little of the rest could be described in this way. The solos "The Monkey God," by Betsy Eagan, and "Songs of Ned Rorem," by Harriet Williams, both of negligible choreographic interest, were redeemed by deft, disciplined performances. The other six pieces, lacking structure, sense, freshness or all three, might be thought of most constructively as learning experiences.