Sitting ringside, as one can at Washington Project for the Arts, gave an added perspective on Lorna Wilkinson as performer and choreographer. She has become a familiar figure on Washington's modern dance circuit, but this was her first program at the Project's new 400 Seventh St. NW location, and her reputation for precision could be examined in detail.
Wilkinson controls a minute movement--the quivering of the hand she draws across her bosom, for example--as meticulously as the whole body in motion. Inflections of angles are repeated exactly whether a heel is turned or an all encompassing attitude is struck. Macroscopically and microscopically, she sustains energy levels evenly for considerable durations. In lieu of spice, this double view one was afforded of the Wilkinson technique did add interest to the three older solos that constituted the first part of last night's program.
To be fair, this choreographer does now seem to be trying to infuse feelings into the movement she has crystallized so neatly from different walks of life and art. Suddenly, halfway through the entrances and exits, stops and starts of "White Line," a 1981 work, Wilkinson lets go and seems to react spontaneously, in a frightened way, to a new sound in Greg Karukas' electronic score. The novel motion material is almost immediately subjected to patterning; nevertheless, a dramatic tension has been established and it does not quite disappear within the architectonics of the remaining solo.
Unexpected things also happened on the second half of yesterday's program. This part was devoted to a premiere, "Redu." Wilkinson danced little in it. At first she was a mere handmaiden, calling attention to Gary Floyd's large wooden set of rails with cross-ties that was placed on end diagonally across the stage and to Michael Moser's videotape of railroad rails and other sights seen from the window of a moving train. The Moser tape, shown in different hues on three screens, and the Floyd set created a visual field with strong classical perspective. Despite the mixed media, this work again seemed to be a pattern piece. Wilkinson carefully removed the vertical wooden planks from their initial positions and jumped up to catch the suspended top rail in order to swing from it. There was a hint of violence in her jump that presaged two other incidents. At one moment she toppled the rearranged planks. It was an act of fury. Pattern, perspective were shattered. Then, for an instant, a man appeared on stage. Was it in protest to her action or was he the cause?
"Redu" ends vaguely, calmly, with a forest snow scene on the screens and the dangling planks lit like trees in a forest. Lorna Wilkinson, though, does not seem to be at peace with pattern dances. The program will be repeated tonight and tomorrow evening.