There's much to be said in favor of Lucinda Weaver Hall, the dancer-choreographer who presented a solo concert at the Dance Place last night, even if her program left a host of questions and reservations in its wake.
To start with, she's got considerable magnetism as a performer. Hall danced with Margaret Jenkins in San Francisco for eight years, before touring Europe and the Middle East with her own work and settling in Washington two years ago. Solid and sinewy in figure, she has a strong technique, far stronger than the Washington average. Her dancing is sensitively shaded to the minutest dynamic gradations; it can be weightlessly wispy in one instant, and brutally forceful the next. There's also an intensity of concentration about Hall -- you see it in her eyes, you feel it in her body -- that keeps one riveted even when the movement itself is less than compelling.
Her choreography has its attractions too. Each work is carefully thought out and structured -- she seems to know exactly what she's up to even when you may feel utterly in the dark about her intentions. She works with contemporary music tailored to her purposes, rather than pre-existing scores to which her choreography would have to conform. And there's an intriguing strangeness to her conceptions -- a kind of eerie introversion that evokes early mid-European modern dance in its expressionist phase.
Sustaining a full evening of solos by a single choreographer, however, is a formidable challenge. And Hall doesn't make things easier. There's something obsessively private about her choreography -- it's a hermetic little world of cryptic symbols and arcane allusions. Hall, moreover, appears to have a favorite stock of movements and poses she recycles through every piece -- slow inward foldings; splayed, wriggling fingers; slowly twisting turns; slow upward reachings and downward pushings; slow, in-place spins, and so forth. The slowness, here and there, is interrupted by sudden gusts of violent, spasmodic kicks, runs and jumps, but then it's back to adagissimo.
The one work of the evening's five that promised to break a bit out of this mold was the mystifying character sketch, "Leandro," seen at some disadvantage because technical problems eliminated the musical score. In the first of a number of sections separated by blackouts, Hall was seen in a man's hat and bulky vested suit. Moving in jazzy shuffles and swaggerings struts, she called out the name "Leandro," sometimes loudly, sometimes in whispers. Other sections featured crouching retreats and falls, and in one case, percussive movements drawn from flamenco, tap, shadow-boxing and karate. Before a modified return to the opening, however, came the same old ultra-slow, convoluted adagio.
In retrospect, the program seemed to be one piece repeated five times, with different titles and other minor variations. There's some kind of talent here, but Hall needs to reach beyond her present cocoon if her choreography is to become more fully communicative.