The seven dances presented by the Jan Taylor Dance Theatre last night at Dance Arts/Moving Arts were so varied in intent, style and quality it's hard to get a clear idea of what the company's about this year. The good news is that the program's three premieres (two by Alvin Mayes and one by Taylor) were by far the strongest works.
Mayes' "New Mojique," a reworking of two earlier dances, "Shades of Grey" and "Mojique," suggests a mythic, ancient ritual through atmosphere rather than gesture or movement. The centerpiece of the work is a trio in which Mayes and Dan Rudolph support Taylor in what would be acrobatic partnering were it not done so slowly and smoothly. Taylor, who knows how to use her patrician profile to good effect, walks, then balances, on the men's shoulders, falls backward into one man's arms and, always remaining serene, is finally carried off by one of them, goddess turned into statuette.
Set in a totally different world, Mayes' "Tag" is a game played by two lovers (Taylor and Mayes) who use each other's bodies like playground toys. Mayes is seesaw and jungle gym; Taylor, when she's gotten his full attention, teases him into playing the title game. "Tag" is sweet and simple, a perfect welcoming dance.
The third premiere, Taylor's "Did You Forget Your Handkerchief?," danced to local composer William Penn's "Moonshine," is constructed out of sniffles, sneezes and nervous tics. As in many of her dances, the central idea is better than Taylor's realization of it. The dancers' aggressively funky costumes telegraph the humorous intent, which is obvious enough when the two men and two women begin to swat imaginary flies, rub their noses, dust off their shoes, and all the other things people do when they feel twitchy. The piece is most successful when it moves from gesture to dance, grafting a shrug, for example, onto a sideways jump. It could do with fewer messy sneezes and a healthy dose of subtlety.
Except for Taylor's solo "Belmont House," particularly interesting in its use of wall and floor in the opening moments, the remaining works were disappointing.