Joyce Trisler was as famed for her teaching as for her choreography, and that legacy is obvious in the dancing of the company that bears her name. The Joyce Trisler Danscompany, whose performance last night at Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater opened this year's DanceAmerica series, is a collection of spirited technicians who evidently like each other and enjoy what they do.
They are also excellent stylists. They know how to shape a phrase by varying dynamics and how to make a gesture or movement look intrinsically interesting by the manner in which they perform it. Their dancing is technically strong, musically apt and vivacious.
The five works on last night's program embraced a variety of styles. It's a "something to please everyone" repertoire, which seems a sensible choice for a company that tours frequently. Two of the works--the opening "Dance for Six" and a short solo, "Journey," were Trisler's. "Dance for Six," set to Vivaldi's "La Cetra," is no more or less than what its title implies. "Journey," to music of Charles Ives, is a creepy-crawly dance where the soloist (Diane Grumet), wearing a shroudlike costume, barely moves in the half-light.
Current artistic director Milton Myers, formerly a member of the Alvin Ailey company, contributed two short works, "Four Etudes" and "Ragtime." Both are light, jazzy little dances to music of Stravinsky that avoided looking like twins, and also barely escaped cuteness. Both Trisler's and Myers' dances are meaty works for technicians, but Trisler's choreography is more subtle and lyrical, Myers' more obviously energetic.
The nature of the program's final work, Gray Veredon's "Koan," is predictable from the moment the first dancer carefully stalks on stage to the first bars of the pseudo-Oriental Stephen Micus score. Five couples--the entire company--play follow-the-leader; a central couple meets, mates, fights and parts. The central duet, with the dancers moaning and breathing heavily, is hokey, and the fight, where the woman battles by throwing herself at the man, then pliantly wrapping herself around him like a passive python, is silly.
The dancers, particularly Elizabeth Roxas in the central female role, were excellent.
The program will be repeated tonight and tomorrow.