What is a pattern, the sum of things seen and heard, or the formula behind the modules of perception? This weekend, at the Dance Place, choreographers Diane Frank and Deborah Riley, with composers John Driscoll and Linda Fisher, premiered a pattern dance that opted for the eye and the ear. Yet, just in case there were minds that wandered from their dynamic inventions and intriguing variations, they strewed enough clues into the piece and its title to send the culprits chasing equations and meaning.
At the outset, two women and men engaged in the complex catching, carrying, propelling and counter-balancing that have become known as Kylian partnering, after the principal choreographer of Nederlands Dans Theater. Jiri Kylian uses this sort of assertive interaction for definitely dramatic ends. Frank and Riley, to sounds in the Driscoll-Fisher score that could be construed as animal calls, devised a repeated strutting movement between the passages of highly charged partnering. These motions, tones and the work's title, "Scene/Herd," were highly suggestive.
As soon as all the relays of dancers had been introduced, though, it became apparent that we were watching an American piece: athletic performers hard at work moving themselves, relating to each other as sets of limbs, lengths of torsos, quantums of energy. The "story" element, like the dance's title, was a pun.
A veritable horde of movement was offered. Highly textured steps were succeeded by less-intricately articulated passages that, in their sweep, became complex in momentum. In each of the dance's many "scenes," new motion material was introduced and combined with a certain amount of repetition. The most sustained development of motifs occurred in a solo of looping turns, stretched balances and plies in air for John McLaughlin. Throughout the work, his artful dodging, almost balletic technique and striking red hair made him the fulcrum in a mixed cast of New York and D.C. dancers.
Also impressive was Linda Garner Jahnke of the yellow hairband and stiletto extensions. Cathy Paine seemed too loose for the sustained high energy of this style and Lonna Wilkinson should beware of the solidity conferred by wearing all-over purple.
Mechanical patterns can be transformed into organic entities. When they are, there is a climax and an inevitable ending. In the corralled stampede of "Scene/Herd," the introduction of moments of stopped motion was startling but not climac tic, and the piece closed on a whim.