It takes a strong man to dance with six women. Last night it happened twice in Alvin Mayes' program of dances at the University of Maryland. Mayes picked winners both times.
Joe Drayton, lanky and supple, has a flair for characterization. In "Gospel Suite," by exaggerating the movements of the members of a women's choir, Drayton controlled them and conveyed the idea he was the conductor. Dan Rudolph, muscular and compact, is able to suggest subdued anger and undercurrents of sensuality in his athletic dancing. In "Formula Translation," sensuality was the wavelength as, propped on one extended arm, he stretched his body along the floor and began to sway from side to side, with the other arm casually resting on his abdomen. Then, standing, he stretched out both arms and opened his big hands as if to ward off intruders.
When there were powerful performers like Drayton, Rudolph or the singer-dancer Peninsula Winslow at the core of the action, the dances became more than stylistic exercises. In this program, Mayes seemed to be testing himself in three very different types of choreography, none of which he has yet mastered fully. "Gospel Suite" is a lively mix of balletic, ethnic and modern dance notions, reminiscent of Alvin Ailey. "Formula Translation" is a moody abstract to Kevin Campbell's new wave impressionist music. The expressionistic movement in "Papa's House" is used to amplify poetic monologues. The merely competent performers in the large cast were not always able to make characters or moods convincing, or some of the elaborate groupings dynamic.
Repeat performances will be given tonight and tomorrow in Building EE on the College Park campus.