"In the Dark," the finale of last night's program by Marta Renzi & Dancers at the Dance Place, was the one work among the evening's four that shed by far the most light.
Couched in the informal, eclectic, postmodern idiom Renzi cultivates, "In the Dark" is an impressionistic drama of the night -- at once murky, ephemeral, engrossing and expertly distilled. The dance plays kaleidoscopically with the connotations of the title, from the idea of "being in the dark" (the five dancers intermittently don and exchange blindfolds) to typically nocturnal feelings and experiences -- fear and violence, revelry and seduction.
The two men of the troupe (Peter Stathas and Mark Taylor) are in dark slacks, loosened ties, rolled sleeves. The three barefooted women (Renzi, Christine Philion and J. Danielle Shapiro) wear bright silky cocktail dresses. The collage sound score begins with bells, as if from harbor buoys, while the dancers grope and creep stealthily. As Fred Astaire sings "Change Partners," the mood shifts to lascivious dalliance. The clack of marching boots has the performers kneeling and falling like firing-squad victims. There's a mock tango, a duet that vacillates between lust and hostility, and, as Aretha Franklin is heard in the title song, an eruption of flashdance and jitter-bugging. The bells return with the final image of two women raised aloft like mysterious towers.
The piece, created this year, shows Renzi at her best -- in full command of the complex of dance styles she invokes, modulating from wit to menace with the subtlest of means. Nothing else on the program was of quite the same caliber. "Between the Lines," like two of the pieces Renzi brought last year to the Dance Place, explores the antics and atmosphere of dance rehearsals, with a lot of casual bumping into each other, and the rubbing of a sore neck turning into a movement motif. The other two works were holdovers from the '83 program. "On Looking Through a Book of Indian Miniatures" is a moderately interesting gloss on Kama Sutra positions, accompanied by inscrutable poetry. "Artichoke for Two," which Renzi performed as a solo last time, is literally a "conversation piece" -- as Strathas and Renzi dance, the latter chats with the audience and solicits questions about her work. The forced ingenuousness of this tactic prompts the thought: stand still and talk to us, or shut up and dance.