That one man's artistic fish is another man's fowl was made pointedly clear by the adjudicated Choreographer's Showcase held at the Jewish Community Center Saturday. The murmurings from the audience upon the announcement of the awards were evidence that the competition's results were anything but unequivocal. Indeed, the only indisputable part of this enterprise was the demonstrated futility of setting art in a hierarchical ordering of "good-better-best."
The adjudicators' choices seem most readily understandable by the fact that five people had to reach a consensus about the subjective experience of art. In these circumstances, it was natural that the "safe" work -- the nonthreatening, nonchallenging evidence of craft -- was chosen for reward.
Kathy Robens Siegal, the new artistic director of Arlington Dance Theater, was awarded $500 for her solo "Sunbreak," which she danced to the ingratiating vacuities of Mannheim Steamroller. With considerable technical skill and precise dynamic control, Siegal punctuated a lyrical flow of movement with flourishes of the loose-limbed shudders and jolts characteristic of puppets controlled by strings. "Sunbreak" was pleasant, easy to watch and, ultimately, forgettable.
A second award of $250 was presented to Don Bailey, whose performing credits include the Atlanta Ballet, the Maryland Ballet and the American Festival Ballet, and who currently teaches at several area studios. Bailey's "Cantilena Pas de Deux," danced by Esperanza Alzona and the choreographer, was a study in loss and remembrance. The ballet had some genuinely lovely moments, but it also contained much filler of every conceivable sort in the contempo-ballet and Graham lines.
Meriam Rosen, director of Improvisations Unlimited and on the dance faculty of the University of Maryland, received $150 for "Afterthoughts," a solo stunningly performed by Cynthia Reynolds. An emotional complement to the vivid colorings of the Scriabin accompaniment, the dance ranged from quietly mysterious gestures to violent and deliberately unpretty thrashings.
The remainder of the dances in contention for prizes were also solos and duets. Kate Trammel's "Big Daddy," an exceedingly clever commentary on father-daughter relations, was probably out of the competition for its reliance on spectacular extra-choreographic production values. Patricia Krauss' "Blues Suite," a study of three types of women, started out strongly but was effectively overpowered by its music, particularly in the extended double entendre of the last section. "Thaw," another work by Rosen, charted the relationship between Alvin Mayes and Cynthia Reynolds as alienation melted into intimacy. Lesa McLaughlin's "Reflex Action" was a banal and stultified look at contemporary angst.
Guest choreographers whose works were not adjudicated included Alvin Mayes, Alcine Wiltz and Frances Smith Cohen.