Lesa McLaughlin tosses movement from body to body, taunts her dancers with risky balances and excites audiences with rushes and leaps. Her choreography is chic and cheeky, her company's presentation totally professional, her chosen musical accompaniment tastefully daring.
But there was a similarity among the pieces presented Saturday night by Lesa McLaughlin and Dancers at Dance Place that diluted their effectiveness. McLaughlin uses a lot of nonstandard partnering -- a small woman lifts a larger woman, who throws a man, who wraps a woman around his shoulder, who lifts a woman. Sparingly used, these movements could be interesting. Crammed together out of context and used in dance after dance, they blur in the mind.
One of the premieres, "Sometimes a Change of Heart," danced by Lori Cope McGuin and E'Dior FitzGerald, used partnering most effectively, but without emotional cues. This could have been a dance about a stormy relationship, but seemed more a study of inertia and correct body placement.
In the other new work, "Heedless Hap," seemingly about a suburban motorcycle gang at play, a motorcycle and a wooden pier were used to explore movement possibilities rather than as mere decoration.
Both dances used the same stop-and-start dynamics, fidgety movements and poses.
There is something self-conscious about McLaughlin's choreography. Dancers spend their rest periods peering or glaring at the audience, and performer/audience rapport seems limited to arch or hostile glances. The underlying emotion in most of McLaughlin's dances is anger, but it's unfocused and without obvious cause.
McLaughlin and her five dancers are all terrific -- fleet, fearless and supple. As a choreographer, she is a craftswoman with a sense of theater who needs to balance an individual style with more varied movements. But she already knows how to move bodies, and that is almost talent enough.