One of the more instructive and enlightening exercises a dance-goer can practice is to keep one's eye on a given dancer as he or she moves through a series of works by a line-up of various choreographers. No matter how sensitive or technically astute that dancer may be, it is often the material itself that makes or breaks a performance. Simply by watching that individual soar or slump through a piece, one can begin to understand what "workable" movement means.
Saturday night's concert at the Dance Place by Perlo/Bloom and Company provided the ideal setup for such a perceptual exercise. During the course of the evening, this small, energetic troupe presented four dances by four very different choreographers. Carla Perlo -- who, together with her musician husband Steve Bloom, directs both this company and the Dance Place operation -- appeared prominently in each of these works. How telling these four performances proved!
A diminutive, flexible dancer, Perlo fared best in a new dance by company member Harriet Williams. "This End Up," to a nouveau-ethnic (Irish, Balinese, you name it) musical medley by the Penguin Cafe Orchestra, paired Williams and Perlo as two chums who jigged, tripped and flitted about the stage. The nonstop steps and dizzy bits of business made the dancers look natural, feathery and funny. Ironically, Perlo's own attempt at lighthearted, play-oriented movement, "Footsteps," left her and the rest of her troupe looking leaden and contrived. The reason: no transitions between steps, not to mention the tired, overused quality of the steps themselves.
Perlo's sunny demeanor turned menacing, and her body language both tense and almost masochistically compliant in "All Debts Public and Private," Lesa McLaughlin's compelling group work to the sound track from the cult flick "Liquid Sky." Finally, the abstract and fiendishly complex nature of "Branch" -- one section of New York artists Diane Frank and Deborah Riley's "Bright Orchard" -- prompted Perlo to stretch herself technically and stylistically. The sophistication and finesse required for this fine work eluded her -- and the other dancers -- slightly, but her ambition and good taste should be lauded.
Steve Bloom's two musical interludes -- one a melange of oohing, verse and minimal percussion, the other a bout of rather tepid drumming and chanting -- completed the program.