Last night's performance by the Elisa Monte Dance Company at Tawes Theatre made one thing abundantly clear: glamor is definitely back in modern dance. Monte uses hard-edged artistic rock by composers David van Tieghem and Glenn Branca, as well as the minimalism of Steve Reich. The costumes are fashionably outre' in body-revealing hot flourescents and black net. Her dancers are sleek, chic and beautiful. It is a glamor of the most up-to-the sort that co-opts the eccentric and inelegant for its own uses.
Lest the purists be alarmed, rest assured that Monte's glamor, like that of fellow glamor-monger Twyla Tharp, is loaded with intelligence and originality.
An alumna of the Pilobolus, Lubovitch and Graham companies, Monte is the ablest of the able performers in her company. Monte's own pleasure in her pliable and articulate body is abundant. The impulse to choreograph seems to spring full-blown from this sensuousness.
Monte's company was founded only four years ago, but she has already acquired a name for herself with commissioned works for established companies, including Alvin Ailey, the San Francisco Ballet, Teatro alla Scala Ballet and the Boston Ballet. In this way, she has also accumulated a repertory for her company upon whom she re-sets these works.
Last night's performance included the latest of these commissions, "VII for VIII," which was premiered by the Boston Ballet in March. The title of this work refers to seven sections for four couples, which explore male-female partnering with a vengeance. From ballroom stances, the men hurl the women into the air and hold them there frozen into sculptural images.
Monte then turns on its head this notion of male and female roles in dance in "Indoors." Performed at Tawes without decor, this work features extended passages of adagio partnering, almost all of it done by same-sex couples. A section of "Indoors," originally commissioned by Teatro alla Scala, was performed at Monte's area debut at the Kennedy Center last year.
Also featured in the Ailey repertory is "Treading," which featured a deliciously voluptuous sense of fluid motion and Pilobolus-like permutations. From Ailey also came "Pigs and Fishes," which evolves from a violent solo performed with clenched fists into a group undulation of continuous motion. The work derives much of its off-beat excitement from those gestures that pull the dancers again and again into the space behind their bodies.
By evening's end, Monte's company had thoroughly seduced an initially resistant audience.