Fifteen dancers from Costa Rica said their goodbyes to Washington last night in a concert that raised many questions, provided a few answers and, with its mix of Costa Rican and U.S. works, was one of the most fascinating local dance events in quite some time. An overflow crowd in George Washington University's Building K wished them bon voyage with hearty applause and several cheers.
The Costa Ricans, professional dancers all from diverse companies in their homeland, had been studying dance at GWU for six weeks. What had they learned?
Perhaps it was: how not to dance all the time, how not to dance so fully and how not to dance so simply on the melodic line and musical beat. One can't be sure, for there was no performance at the beginning of their residency, but what they attempted to do in works by four U.S. choreographers was sometimes just to move.
All the works of the Costa Rican repertory were "dancy" in a very direct way. It was choreography unafraid of being popular, of mixing folk material with modern technique and sometimes a bit of balletic style. At least two of the pieces were more than vehicles. Luis Piedra's "Lamento" depicts, in bold strokes, the suffering and death of a man and the sorrow and anger of three women who mourn him. This is a mural by Orozco come to life. Marta A'vila's "Conversemos" caught the fear of loving too much in the sweeping embraces and recoils of a young couple.
As a group, these dancers have a fullness and suppleness of torso, a fluidity of arms and a dramatic sense of rhythm that make it difficult for them to move without appearing to dance. In an excerpt from "Agitation" by Washington's Daniel West, they gave a rhythm to the spastic tension of the movement that went against the grain of its rigor. In the fast variations on running, jumping and lifting that constitute "Local Origination" by Maine's Daniel McCusker, the Costa Ricans imbued the hectic pace with a delightful lilt. But they lacked the line and hard edge to make the leaps meld easily into McCusker's pattern.
A repeat performance, which also includes works by Maida Withers and Liz Lerman plus two of Marina Keet's delicious Spanish dances, will be given tonight. Get there early if you want to get in.