First and last, Molissa Fenley is about energy. The more one sees of her, though, the more one is led to ask, is she about anything else?
Molissa Fenley and Dancers made their Kennedy Center debut last night at the Terrace Theater, as part of the Dance America series, performing Fenley's evening-length abstraction, "Hemispheres." The work, danced by Fenley and the two other trimly virtuosic women of her troupe -- Silvia Martins and Scottie Mirviss -- comes with a commissioned, avant-jazz score by composer-pianist Anthony Davis, and chic-looking, loosely draped togs designed by Rei Kawakubo. The opus had its premiere a year ago in the Brooklyn Academy's "Next Wave" festival, and Fenley also brought it to this area last spring in a performance at George Mason University.
The dancing shoots forth at you from the three bodies in virtually incessant gusts of boundings, kicks, sprints, spins, furlings, flexings and flailings, mostly at top speed and force. Of the work's four sections, each with its own obscure title, the third -- in which the thick texture of Davis' exciting score turns leaner and more lyrical -- is not slow, but it's slower than the rest, and it has the effect of choreographic relief. Even so, "Hemispheres" feels like one long, unbroken blast of sinewy action at full throttle.
If nothing else, one cannot help but admire the dancers' improbable stamina and sleek control, as well as the caliber of choreographic thought that keeps the eye riveted through all the work's intricacies of embellishment. If spigots of paint were attached to the dancers' limbs, the floor at evening's end might resemble one of Pollock's canvases, all densely intersecting skeins of pigment. But Fenley apparently aims for more than this. A program note declares that "the hemispheres of the world and of the mind are metaphorically characterized in the dance," and in a very broad sort of way one can see a dichotomy in "Hemispheres" between visceral impulse and rigorous spatial design. That can be said, however, about a great many dances. The mental or geopolitical metaphors are harder to discern.
"Hemispheres" might be taken simply as an emblem of the whole aerobic-fitness-athletics fixation of the current era. That still leaves open the question of whether there's anything to it artistically apart from its marathon aspects, and after two viewings the answer still seems elusive.