The D.C. Contemporary Dance Theater fairly blew the lid off The Dance Place Saturday night, performing to an overflow crowd that registered its approval in mega-decibels.
Even in this era of fitness mania and monster marathons, DCCDT seems to reach toward new levels of limberness, physical daring and volcanic energy. And the company's fireworks set off the fans, in turn, as if they were a tinderbox -- the din sometimes blanketed the musical accompaniment.
The relatively young troupe -- established in January 1984 -- is filling a major gap in the local dance scene left by the collapse of the D.C. Black Repertory Dance Company about a decade ago. Both the dancers and the repertory, which blends modern dance, jazz dance and Afro-Caribbean idioms, reflect the ethnic mix of Washington to a degree not matched by other area ensembles. The troupe, moreover, has made its presence felt all over town, in performances in theaters, festivals and other sites, as well as through classes, lecture-demonstrations, workshops and community outreach programs.
In the present complement of 11 dancers, the men actually outnumber the women -- a rare circumstance anywhere in the dance world. Though artistic director Miya Hisaka hails from elsewhere, the majority of the company members were born in Washington or trained here or both. Among them is the leading duo -- Adrain Bolton, associate artistic director, resident choreographer and an exemplary dancer; and Katherine J. Smith, a performer of exceptional strength, speed and intensity who is also associate director of the company.
For all its splendid accomplishment in so brief a time, the troupe has significant weaknesses, as the Dance Place program demonstrated anew. In the rush to make an impact, velocity, brilliance and stamina seem to have taken precedence over precision and refinement. More importantly, the repertory is in serious need of diversification, and, to put it bluntly, artistic quality. By and large, the group's oft-repeated assortment of works -- by Bolton, Smith and guest choreographers Jason Taylor and Rod Rodgers -- is in one tempo and borders too closely for comfort on the monotonous zapping of an aerobics workout. Saturday night's one novelty -- Bolton's "The Mirror," an essay in self-examination billed as a "work in progress" -- showcased dancer Willie Washington Jr.'s fine points, but was otherwise unkempt both in form and concept.
Possibly the company could go on repeating its act indefinitely to the undiminished delight of its adherents. The dancers will need more challenging and substantial fare, however, and so will a wider public, if DCCDT is to fulfill its remarkable potential.