Anna Leo's dances, on view at the Dance Place Friday night, have the kind of fluency that suggests that choreography must be her native tongue.
Though there were stops and starts in the performances by Leo, Nancy Nasworthy and Ron Lybeck, there wasn't a single moment of stasis, of awkwardness, of calculation -- the dance impulse never died. Indeed, the flow of movement seemed so natural, so lively, so instinctive, one could have believed it was created on the spot. But the two works of the evening -- "Gold" and "Home, or Some Memories" -- also had the kind of formal ingenuity and complexity of shape and inflection that only a masterly creative imagination could have supplied, with the help of prior trial, error and editorial savvy.
Ohio-born Leo has been creating dances in New York since 1980, the year the duet "Gold" premiered. She, Nasworthy and Lybeck have a common background -- they have all danced with the Kenneth Rinker Company. They also share a level of finesse as performers that marks them as first-rate after a few minutes' watching. Their technique disappears in its transparency -- you see through it to pure dance statement, with no awareness of intervening effort or mechanism.
Leo's choreographic idiom swings freely from dancy steps, semaphoric gesture and pedestrian movement to allusions to tap, folk and ballroom dancing. Loping legato passages yield to lightning directional shifts and slicing attacks. Both of the evening's works were abstract, yet each had a strong sense of content. In its pressure or easefulness, wit or sobriety, angularity or buttery curve, the movement itself spoke worlds about the mood and interrelationship of the dancers.
"Gold," for Leo and Nasworthy, both sporting gold jazz shoes, is an alternatingly ruminative and assertive piece that has a solo for each dancer at start and finish, and a companionable duet in between. One recurring motif is an arm shaken as if to untangle a bracelet -- simple as it sounds, it's as eloquent as a sonnet. The longer "Home" uses all three dancers, along with attractive minimalist music by Conrad Kinnard and Terry King, ranging from Latin to Bach to bluegrass, and gaily modular costumes by Robin Klingensmith, parts of which get turned inside out to disclose new colors and patterns. The dancers' behavior suggests now siblings, now playmates, now lovers -- a time-warped reverie.