A program of solos and a Stravinsky suite at Dance Place last weekend by the Boston-based Chortet suggested that things choreographically are much the same north of New York as south of it: That is, there is a plethora of fine dancers appearing in work that is professionally crafted though often derivative. For its D.C. debut, the company was joined by Susan Sachs, formerly a dancer with Jan van Dyke, who was a Washington choreographer.
Chortet artistic director Andrea Morris' rendering of the suite from Igor Stravinsky's "L'Histoire du Soldat" utilized a combination of mime and dance to depict the parable of a soldier's contest with the devil. Some of the stage business proved quite conventional. For example, the rather unsubtle game of "keep away" is familiar from 18th- and 19th-century ballet. Of more interest was Morris' duet for the soldier and the princess in which horseplay and comic rapport between Bill Doolin and Shirley Nelson centered in a tango, waltz and ragtime, which functioned as competition, seduction and mating. Doolin's long-limbed, androgynous appearance concealed a surprising comedic ability for pratfalls and parody and served as a foil to Nelson's ingenuous sweetness.
Of the solos, Joy Kellman's "Muricidae" and Susan Sach's "Constellation" were Cunningham spinoffs. The upright torsos, wide and controlled ports de bras, discontinuity of body parts and soaring extensions inescapably suggested the Cunningham trademark. The interest in "Muricidae" came from dancer Susan White's sharp dynamics, steady balance and finely arched feet. Sachs is likewise a beautifully controlled technician, though an uncompromising one. With her expressionless Cunningham demeanor, Sachs demanded that her audience respond to her solely in kinetic terms. By contrast, Shirley Nelson's "Diagonal Flight" was more atmospheric. Hypnotically controlled dynamics created the impression that finely nuanced Nelson was moving through a viscous environment.