Choreographer Rebecca Kelly, whose Dance Company from New York performed at the Duke Ellington Theatre Friday and Saturday, is disquieting in peculiar ways. Her works aren't noisy; she's not out to bludgeon or preach. Judging by her subjects, she wants to offer insights into the human predicament of desire and dissatisfaction. Yet, after she's applied her lexicon of movement to characters and the situations they create, her final images are more confusing than the first.
Three wallflowers in "Waiting for Mr. Wonderful" are so stupidly awkward one wonders why Craig Brashear, the Mr., bothers with them. The two male bathers in "Window" are so intent on sensual experience that they'd have to be very uninventive to remain unsatiated. In "Dream Driven," what's the difference if all the women are separate individuals or part of one split personality? Kelly's scenarios fail as dramas of ambiguity because the questions her images suggest narrow our focus.
"Window," a premiere, shows three vistas: a pseudo-Oriental shrine dance (performed by the choreographer), the quasi Greek bathing scene for a quartet of nymphs and fauns, and what might be a "pajama" party for a trio of New England witches. In this work, as in "Mr. Wonderful," Kelly shows a predilection for rotational movement. Arms twine, the torso twists, even the legs sometimes coil. Such a stylized passage may follow one of descriptive action. Often the treatment is nearly minimalist, with motion themes repeated or slightly varied for long stretches. No sharpening or shattering of focus occurs, though, as in the best minimalist work; there is just a persistence.
"Dream Driven," a 1985 piece, is a psychological "Rite of Spring" seen from the point of view of the Sacrificial Virgin -- an idealistic girl who grows up to be an alcoholic and eventually a mental patient. Movement is treated functionally but not minimally; a few short passages of thrust make a strong accompaniment for Stravinsky's music (in a piano edition). The realistic passages, though, don't link or contrast well with the expressive dancing, and the split casting of the central part confuses.
The program was professionally staged, and the dancers -- including Angelique D'Addaorio, Maureen Mansfield, Jennifer Sprowl, Bob Gaines and Brashear -- when not interrupted by the choreographer's search for meaning, had gusto. Kelly herself is a short, pugnacious performer who should show herself off in someone else's dances.