It was a sentimental occasion at the Dance Place this weekend. Carla Perlo and Steve Bloom and Company gave a set of farewell performances to the space in Adams-Morgan that they have made into Washington's truest theater for dancing.
At the beginning of the program, Bloom simply announced that next time, Perlo/Bloom and Company would not be appearing at the same location. Perlo, at the end of the evening, added that other companies would still use the present Dance Place through December; then there would be a new Dance Place at a site soon to be made public.
The new space will have to be owned, not rented; otherwise it, too, would be temporary. To help finance the purchase, there will be a series of benefits beginning with the premiere showing, at 7 p.m. Dec. 6, of the Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines movie "White Nights" at the Avalon Theatre. A full house, including many of Washington's best modern dancers, gave Perlo a volley of applause. Obviously, Dance Place fills a need.
The program, though, was not one of reminiscences, but consisted of new and recent work in dance and music. Steve Bloom is a percussion player who performs his own scores with theatrical flair. In "Thunderbird," he straddles a great drum in shirtless ecstasy, tapping and stroking the instrument's taut skin as if, through the magic of music, it would again become a living tissue. In "Man on Earth," Bloom, spotlighted and dressed as a handyman, coaxes musical tones from whips, bottles, anvils and other unlikely objects while his partner, Mike Vargas, dressed in jacket and tie, works in the shadows.
In the dance works there seemed to be two purposes: establishing dramatic tension and using pure technique to create new patterns of movement. Lesa McLaughlin's "All Debts Public and Private" builds almost continuous motion through a subtle emphasis on torsos and backs. The dancers bend and spiral, not emphatically but in a cool, detached way like gymnasts biding time. The dancing exists separately from this mood, except in two duets. One is for a man and woman and it attains tenderness through violence. The second is for the same woman and female figure who is mother and lover. When McLaughlin segregates and then integrates dance and drama, is she doing it on purpose?
Looking like choreographic wallpaper, Diane Frank and Deborah Riley's "Branch" consisted of movement phrases in multiple combinations with each other and juxtaposed to bits of narration. Perhaps this dance gains interest in the context of the work to which it belongs, "Bright Orchard." Carla Perlo's "Now You See Them," a premiere, is a look at dancers on stage and through the motion-picture camera. On stage, Perlo stresses the mechanics of moving the body; on screen there are virtuoso passages that blur anatomical details and also, there are dramatic close-ups.
The one dance piece that consistently tried to meld technique and expression was Perlo's opening solo, "Emerging." In dimness, one saw a pulsing blob of matter, an abstracted womb, which gave birth to a nude female body. The body stood up to dress itself and became a dancer. She, like Isadora Duncan, was fascinated by red cloth. In her hands it was a heroic banner; on her shoulders it was a noble cloak. But this dancer wasn't killed by her prop. She knew when to put it down, when to practice and when to perform. This dancer is a determined woman.