In the '30s, the American modern dance world seethed with controversy over the "danceability" of J.S. Bach, with critic John Martin arguing against Doris Humphrey's eloquent defense of this accompaniment. Subsequent masterpieces such as George Balanchine's "Concerto Barocco" and Paul Taylor's "Esplanade" seem finally to have arbitrated the matter in Humphrey's favor.
In its reliance on the Bach opus, the repertory of Washington choreographer Greg Reynolds reaps the consequences of this settlement. Fully half the pieces on his Dance Quintet's weekend YWCA program featured Bach compositions, including the title work, "Streamers." This and several other dances revealed Reynolds' debt to mentor Paul Taylor in the vocabulary of modified contractions, flying runs and geometrically placed arms.
The second half of the program was designed as a progression from the utter stillness of "Illuminations" to the freneticism of the "Streamers" premiere. The movement of "Illuminations" consisted solely of Reynolds breathing as he sat in lotus position; slow plie's and classroom exercises were added in "Quintet," Reynolds' "schoolpiece" to Pachelbel's ubiquitous Canon. Finally, "Streamers" proceeded to no-holds-barred action in which the dancers winged across the tiny stage.
Alternating sinuosity with deliberation, the four sections of "Essence" also examined variations in tempo and mood. The program was completed by "The Passion According to Mary" and "Ages," both of which explore a woman's love as relived in her imagination. Universalizing the idea of a mother's grief at the loss of a child, "Passion" featured the clever fillip of the mother and child exchanging places: she taking her son's torture into her own body, and he cradling her in Pieta fashion.
The Reynolds Quintet's consistently high level of performance and smart costuming make it one of Washington's most ambitious resident companies.