Yesterday's two entries in Glen Echo's series of summer dance presentations were area groups working within radically different, though indigenously American, dance genres. The modern dance group, Laura Crowne and Dancers, and the American Tap Dance Theatre both presented concerts centered on eclecticism, especially in the use of musical accompaniment.
The Laura Crowne dancers have a "beautiful people" appeal--sleek and tanned, they have the look of models in diet cola commercials. This surface appearance is oddly at variance with the Crowne movement style, which emphasizes the aggressive and the brittle, the sudden catch of breath. What Crowne herself brings off as gutsy determination and fearlessness translates onto her attractive dancers as a certain lack of ease and fluidity.
With accompaniment ranging from Phoebe Snow to Bach, Crowne's concert had something for everyone. The dances also ran the gamut from pop-modern to icily abstract to traditional modern. Even though Crowne choreographed all but one of these dances, it was difficult to define a unifying concern to the company repertory. The raison d'e tre seemed rather geared toward as wide a range of theme, style and content as possible.
Probably the most unusual offering was "Night Water," in which dancers carrying flashlights on the blacked-out stage effectively functioned as props, sets, costumes and movers. Cleverly manipulating small beams on cloth backing, face, floor and body, the dancers simply abetted the movement of the lights, which was the true focus of the work.
The chief interest of "Red Solo," choreographed for Crowne by New York choreographer Candice Christakos, lay in the intricate patterning of arms and hands, interspersed with sudden changes in dynamic. The impact of these breaks was diminished, however, by an insistent lyricism inescapably tied to the Bach accompaniment. Crowne's own premiere, "Challenge/Extend," was a dueling duet lacking the tension and focus implied in its title. Effectively capturing the sensual complaint in Billie Holiday's torch song were the offbeat, violent flingings in "Solitude," Crowne's most advantageous performing vehicle.
A more informal concert was presented by American Tap Dance Theatre (ATDT). Formed two years ago under the direction of choreographer Mickey Bailey, ATDT also stressed variety in accompaniment, from Big Band to New Wave. The popularity of this group with yesterday's audience testifies to the ever-growing interest in this indigenous American form.