That fervent decade, the '60s, has already been romanticized in many a heart and mind. All those rabidly political, sexually liberated, anti-authoritarian performances that occurred during that decade at the Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village have been similarly revered by dance enthusiasts. Relatively few people experienced those evenings spent in the glow of the Judson Dance Theater, and so their legacy is more spiritual than concrete. Yet when today's young dancer rejects leotards for street clothes, chooses pedestrian over highly technical movement or thumbs his nose at tradition, he or she in some way acknowledges the Judson credo.
A formal tribute to this movement is far more complicated. The works these artists created are, for the most part, fragile projects based on loose, improvisational structures.
Last night at the Washington Project for the Arts, choreographer David Appel and a band of local dancers offered their interpretation of the Judson legacy, one that vibrated with integrity and substance.
Appel has studied extensively with several Judson figures and his own work grows out of their investigation of contact improvisation, animal behavior and other movement concerns. He moves with total fluidity, thoroughly absorbed in his body processes.
His rendition of Forti's "Crawling" captured perfectly the stillness and surprise inherent in human and animal locomotion. First walking, then creeping on all fours, then leaping and swinging his head from side to side, Appel turned from man into bear, frog and assorted other creatures.
"Rollers" and "Hangers," two of Forti's game-structured pieces, came off lighthearted and slight. In the first, two women seated in carts asked six volunteers to roll them about by pulling ropes fastened to these vehicles. The second took place in an alley behind the WPA; three performers stood on swings that hung from a fire escape while four others wove slowly around them in the cold.
Steve Paxton's "Jag Ville Gorna Telesonera," based on a score made up of photographs of athletes, received a rather choppy performance by Appel and a poker-faced Susan Kelley. Appel's latest opus for himself and three women, "Picking Up the Pieces," shared the Judson concept of collective support and ordinary movement, but went on for too long and had too much verbiage.
The most justifiably celebrated work of the Judson era, Yvonne Rainer's "Trio A," served as beginning (as a solo for Mead Andrews, performed in silence) and end (as a duet for Andrews and Appel to "In the Midnight Hour") of the program. How clear, unadorned, and difficult this dance looks; how beautifully it suits these dancers' bodies and sensibilities.
The program will be repeated tonight and tomorrow at 8