Resurrected from the ashes of the former Dance Project, the Dance Place approaches its third year with a gratifying list of accomplishments in service to the D.C. dance community: the establishment of a steady audience for smaller companies, a highly competent teaching staff, an affordable alternative performance space and a constant roster of performances by locals and out-of-towners in a series supported by government and private foundations, corporations and individuals.
This weekend's concert by Dance Place faculty -- its third annual -- proved a microcosm of the strengths and weaknesses of this organization. The uniformly high level of technical proficiency among these performers was consistent with the Dance Place's reputation as one of D.C.'s most important training grounds for aspiring professionals. Yet, a general choreographic malaise was also apparent. While these choreographers could certainly be labeled competent in their respective genres, none truly seemed to go beyond the workaday in originality.
"Emerging," the premiere solo by artistic director Carla Perlo, was a strikingly performed though conventional series of reaching movements accompanied by Perlo's own breathy vocalizations. Harriet Williams found in a personal tragedy the inspiration for "Syndrome," the overwhelming by numbness of a joyous pizzicato. This emotional wallop was followed by Tyrone Murray's Vegas-style come-hither, "In the Name of Love." While Alvin Mayes' "Slendro Part II" never shook the yoke of the conventional love duet, his "Gloria" was truly riveting -- one suspects chiefly because of the lushly feline performance of Cathy Paine.
Performances by Steve Bloom, Bob Boilen, Robert Mann and Jim Sivard, along with dancers Perlo and Tracy Inman, demonstrated that one of the Dance Place's most precious assets remains its staff of gifted and dedicated musicians.