In all of Jan Taylor's dances, there is at least the germ of a good idea and several moments of interesting movement. But a tendency to lose control of intended effects, overreliance on simplistic music and a predilection for the showy rather than the substantial keep Taylor from fulfilling her potential as a choreographer who is both craftswoman and entertainer.
The strongest work the Jan Taylor Dance Theatre presented this weekend at Dance Place was "Crystalian," in which three women dressed in black-belted baggies performed martial arts-like movements. The perpetual rustling of the dancer's costumes and the occasional percussive stamping of their feet produced a fascinating effect, and the often intricate choreography was well danced.
Two solos that Taylor choreographed for other dancers were partially effective. "Centurian" is ideally suited to William Christian, a dancer of considerable charm who moves with the grace and force of an athlete. The work is a bit too long, however, and sends mixed emotional signals. "Chameleon," for guest artist Mary Williford, contains long, static passages, but the curious center section of the work is the dance of a frightened, giant insect. Williford, dressed in a lavender scuba-diving costume that would have made any other dancer look hideous, performed the dance with clear, sharp movements that were precise without seeming calculated.
"Sherbet," which began two years ago as a subtly funny duet about the battle of the sexes, has degenerated into a slapstick routine; clowning has replaced dancing. "Te te-a -Te te," a duet for two women, may be about female friendship but the dancers are shown as simpering, overgrown children. "Birdland," which closed the program, was a jazzy dance that had more energy than choreography. The only non-Taylor work presented was Alvin Mayes' "Dance in Tan and White," a pure dance piece for all five company members that was well-wrought, well-danced and slightly dull.