The metronome, set at 132 counts per minute, was turned off as the Murray Spalding Dance Theatre began its performance of "Crossings" last night. The dancers had been limbering and rehearsing to it as the audience entered, and in that short time the fast pace made something of an imprint on the audience. Silence predominated as the first two of the five women in the cast began to cross the floor. They moved forward and backward in big steps, with the traveling leg pausing high and their arms active in a calisthenics pattern.
It was the silence that was the new ingredient. Spalding's choreography had been seen before, when she premiered "Crossings" at the Renwick Gallery here in May and then, in September, showed it in New York. However, until last night's performance in College Park at the University of Maryland's Student Union Colony Ballroom, David Yoken's music had always accompanied the dancing. The sound made a sensual difference. It was dry, and by comparison the women gained harem airs as they repeated Spalding's themes and variations in linear formations during the work's 55-minute duration.
The dance begins as a processional, then gains amplitude and momentum and, almost, reaches a climax. Last night, this action sequence seemed sportive, even combative, with no overtones of ecstasy. Some of the dancers had quite different expressions on their faces in the atmosphere of silence and self-made sounds. One woman smiled, while her opponent was stern in her concentration on the same leap forward, step back and jumped turn-about. The static section, in which the dancers link arms to form a line, had the tension of battle frieze; the circle, an exceptional formation in this piece, seemed like a team huddle.
The new version of "Crossings" is also a third shorter than the original, and some of the dance combinations have been changed. In a question-and-answer session after the performance, Spalding said she was already thinking of other versions. Will the next one be danced to Ludwig Minkus' music for the Shades Scene in "La Bayadere," that early ancestor of choreography by the module?