Program 3 of Washington Dance Directions had its premiere Saturday night at the Marvin Theater. The contrast among groups on the roster was theatrically wise. Jan Taylor's company addressed modern dance concerns, David Appel's proceeded from postmodern principles and Colette Yglesias' strove for whimsey.
Appel's collaboration with musician Michael Willis, "Fast But Not Too Fast," began with Willis stepping into a spotlit area of the stage to pick up a bass fiddle from the floor. In front and to the side of Willis, Appel's prone body became visible. He was face down but there was no one to pick him up, so he slowly pushed himself toward stage center. Willis began to play. His bowing and Apple's sliding motion were congruous: both were deliberate, serious actions of equivalent amplitude, effort and pace.
The dance developed, and so did the music. Appel's first added motion was a turning over on the floor. He then danced in a sitting position, then kneeling, eventually standing. Throughout, the turn was reiterated as a key theme. Often it seemed to be done for its own sake, but at times Appel used it to face another direction. Twice, at least, the new direction afforded him the chance to take long looks. Once he gazed at the musician; once out at the audience, and then lowered his head.
Near the end of "Fast But Not Too Fast," things did become hectic. Willis' trails of sonorities had evolved into jazzy phrases and Appel countered with rushed, loose movement that he crystallized into barefoot tap-dancing. The humor of such a response, with its concessions to motion-sound mimicry, like the underlying seriousness of the entire work, stemmed from an intimacy of music and dance that was anything but mechanical.
In another Appel piece, "Swing Shift," the concern again was with movement developing into dance. As the choreographer and two women performed to offstage music by Al Green, he had chances to show his fine elasticity. Halfway through, though, the choreography ceased to grow. One was left with a plethora of movement and an abrupt, arbitrary, overdue ending.
Jan Taylor began "Mojique" with a vigorous solo for herself. To grating music by Jon Hassell, she explored angry motion, not as a tantrum, but in a structured way. Two men, stalwart Alvin Mayes and agile Eric Bobrow, joined her for an acrobatic adagio (partly choreographed by Mayes) that, at first, suggested vivid images: spiders in copulation, hunters bearing prey, ship prows at launching. Suddenly, though, imagery ceased and routine held sway.
Taylor's "What the Hand Dare Seize the Fire?," which she and Bobrow danced to Chopin music, satirizes fate-and-passion duets. Much tighter than at its recent premiere was Colette Yglesias' "Turn Left at Twilight." The improved pacing showed more clearly the work's repetitiveness and sentimentality.This program, as well as the two others, will be repeated this week.