Leave itto Dance Place to schedule premieres and debuts at summer's end. Last weekend's program by "In and Out of Town" choreographers included four new works, one of which was an Op. 1. Some of the dancers were appearing on the series or in the area for the first time. It was a fresh and varied bill of fare.
The title of Beth Davis' firstborn could be taken in several ways. One answer to "Who's Driving?" is that it's the music. The sound of Talking Heads sets the work's pop style. Another answer is the choreographer. Davis was in total control, deploying her cast of six in an attack on the grind, the jerk, the limp, the monkey, vertigo and other theme dances. Without harming the spontaneity of any of the movements as they are done in social situations, Davis gave each an underpinning of technique that highlighted its anatomical base. What a bright way of displaying bodies and moods!
Nancy Nasworthy's duet "Fits and Starts" wasn't awkward at all. To a haunting score by Don Zuckerman (vocalized by Anne Willis), Nasworthy examines the mystery of friendship. There is no literal story. Two dancers, Naomi Uchizono and the choreographer, perform. At first they are almost mirror images of each other. Gradually they're drawn together. At the end they part, but their mutual awareness doesn't diminish. Nasworthy established a sense of secrecy right away by having Uchizono kneel to execute hand motions that were hidden because the audience saw only her back.
What is the gender of an angel? Deborah Riley asks that question in "Steel Angel." As the angel, Riley performs he-man arm flexing and she-devil hip shaking. Theology isn't really the issue, though. It is the social situation of women alluded to in a text by Judy Graham. Riley's movement in this solo and in the less literal "Let Her" is emphatic but not always incisive.
Kathy Wildberger's "Double Vision" posed the gender problem very subtly. Two dancers engage in the sort of tomfoolery typical of buddies. Because the roles were performed by women, Jenifer Golden and Wildberger, does one have to label the characters as tomboys? In "Water Off a Duck's Back," Amy Chavasse-Dupree used a slinky showgirl style to show off her technique. Sondra Loring, in "When the Cows Come Home," revived the old device of the dancing doll in a clever twist, illuminating the richness of human motion by contrasting it with the movement of mechanical toys.
When jazz vocalist Sheila Jordan performs, telling the song from the singer isn't always easy. Jordan throws herself into a song -- gets inside it, really -- so that when she begins to improvise you have a feeling that's what the songwriter intended all along.
Performing with a trio at One Step Down Friday night, Jordan was in a vibrant mood, using her voice to create striking hornlike improvisations on such tunes as "I Remember You," "Goodbye Porkpie Hat" and "It Never Entered My Mind."
The last two songs were part of an intimate medley of tributes to jazz greats, a theme Jordan returns to frequently in concert. In fact, her affection for the music is so contagious and deeply felt that you can't help but share it before she leaves the stage.
The sentimental highlight of the show, however, came when Jordan invited her old friend, Washington jazz vocalist Shirley Horn, to accompany her on piano.
Together, they embarked on an expansive, ad-lib blues, and even an unplugged microphone couldn't stanch the love that flowed between them.
B.B. King is traveling light these days. At Carter Barron Amphitheatre Sunday night, the guitarist appeared with a slimmed-down version of his big band -- a septet led by his nephew, saxophonist Walter King.
However, as long as King brings along his guitar -- Lucille is her name -- audiences aren't likely to be disappointed. With her sweet, mournful tone and butterfly vibrato, Lucille stole the show, overshadowing even King's bellowing and passionate vocals. If they didn't go over so well in concert, King could be accused of milking some songs to death. Fortunately, there's still plenty of life in "Caldonia," "Outside Help," "The Thrill Is Gone" and the other blues classics that make up his show.
Moreover, several brass-punctuated guitar instrumentals proved that, while there are faster and flashier guitars around, King knows how to make every note add to the story he's telling.
Sedatrious Brown, a powerful blues singer in her own right, opened the show. Playing organ and fronting a fine quartet, she sang with an earthy soulfulness that recalled some of the great R&B vocalists of the '50s.
When Irish guitarist Gary Moore opened his Sunday night performance at the Bayou with back-to-back songs from his new "Wild Frontier" album, it seemed likely that the Thin Lizzy veteran intended to emphasize the Big Country-like sound of that record. After a ragged but soaring "Over the Hills and Far Away" and an expansive "Thunder Rising," however, Moore and his backup trio changed their tune -- or, more accurately, jettisoned tunes altogether.
Moore never returned to the Celtic rock mode of "Wild Frontier," instead offering a tour of his playing styles: jazzy licks, metal squeals, bluesy Yardbirdsisms on "Shapes of Things to Come." His playing was skillful and versatile, but without structured arrangements it was not nearly so interesting as both he and the hard-core fans in the audience seemed to think.
Hurricane, a pound-by-numbers heavy metal quartet that shared a proclivity for the pointless solo, opened the show.