"A Modern Dance Miscellany" might well have been the subtitle for "Moments," a concert produced by the Center Dance Ensemble at the Jewish Community Center this weekend. With guest artists Alvin Mayes, Alcine Wiltz, and Helen Rea and Don Zuckerman of Duets etc., the program was something of an armchair tour of the various historical phases and styles that, for want of any other consensus, fall under the heading of modern dance.
One modern dance characteristic that fell by the wayside in the '60s was a depiction of the nobility of the human spirit through heroic protagonists. University of Maryland faculty member Mark Ryder's "Soliloquy: And Thus to My Enemies" harks to an earlier time with its larger-than-life aspirations. Also reminiscent of the period was "Fancies and Goodbyes," a dramatic study in the Graham idiom choreographed by Frances Smith Cohen, director of the Center Dance Ensemble.
The works of Wiltz, chairman of the dance department at the University of Maryland, straddled the line between traditional and contemporary. His solo, "Paralleling Phrases," has the intellectual rigor of the style forged by Merce Cunningham, along with an insouciance of unlikely contortions and gestural non sequiturs. The flowing repetitions of his "Continuance," a group visualization of its Steve Reich score, are a hybrid of the swings, scoops, spirals and folds employed by a variety of choreographers who have pioneered distinctive styles.
Beginning in the '60s and continuing through the last decade and a half, modern dance became more personal, as well as more pedestrian. This trend was represented on the program by Marta Renzi's "Working Variations," performed by Rea and Zuckerman. Renzi employs gesture and nonstylized movement to detail the course of a relationship, from the playfulness of first affection, tenderness and sexuality, to aloofness and antagonism.
Rea and Zuckerman also performed the duet from Hannah Kahn's "Dashes and Bolts," a work well suited to their casual virtuosity, clarity, ease and sensitivity to nuance.
Also on the program was University of Maryland faculty member Mayes' "Sam's Jukebox," which in its generic "modern dancey" style showed no clearly defined point of view to elucidate its 1940s-era references of costuming and music.