The chief item of interest at the American University Fall Dance Concert last night was a new piece by Gus Solomons Jr., who, during a month-long guest residency in October, created "Step #7: Chatter Traffic" for AU dance repertory students.
Solomons -- a Cunningham troupe alumnus, founder of his own company and former dance head at Cal Arts -- once studied architecture at MIT, and his proclivity for the subject echoed in the structural boldness of the new work.
To some heavy metal rock, Solomons plunges six women into brisk, forceful strides, weaving a shifting, self-intersecting matrix of rectangular shapes -- at the very end the lines resolve almost slyly into a single diagonal. Though the piece is no earthshaker, the choreography has that instinctive movement logic that turns intricate, abstract patterns into a statement at once clear, spirited and suspenseful.
A second piece by a guest artist -- Sharon Wyrrick, currently artist-in-residence at AU--didn't quite live up to the splendid level of this Washington choreographer's other recent work. "Drive," neatly interlaced with a clever verbal and percussion score, is a bit too doggedly schematic in its indictment of life's unceasing pressures.
The rest of the program, made up of works by faculty and student choreographers, showed things looking up at AU, in comparison with similar events of recent seasons. The dancers looked sharper, the dancing more polished, and the choreography, while far from memorable, displayed a consistently respectable level of craftsmanship; there was also more feeling of contact with contemporary idioms and concerns than in the past.
Among the six pieces, the most distinctive were Dana McEnroe's infectiously zoot "A Certain Party at the Station," a trio that captured the '40s pop flavor, to a collage version of "Chattanooga Choo-Choo"; and Abigail Kaplan's "Episodes," a well-knit abstraction in the Cunningham vein to some of John Cage's "prepared piano" music.