Members of Washington's dance, theater, music and visual arts communities joined forces last night at George Washington University's Marvin Center Theatre to present a tribute to Jack Guidone, long associated with Joy of Motion and his own troupe, Axolotl, who died last year.
The multimedia collaboration of "Metamorphosis" was especially appropriate, as Guidone was known not only as a dancer but as teacher, choreographer, singer, actor and mask maker.
Although evenings like this are sometimes most useful in providing the chance for an artist's friends and admirers to pay their respects, the second half of the program contained some genuinely moving movements, especially Bart Whiteman's performance of T.J. Edwards' terse, literate and chilling monologue "Immunity (Part I)" (a world premiere) and D.C. Cabaret's rendition of two songs from its acclaimed work about AIDS, "A Dance Against Darkness." The mixed pieties of Gene Hill Sagan's mournful "Yeriel" were completely appropriate in this context, and the D.C. Contemporary Dance Theater performed them beautifully.
For the most part, the balance of the program was unrelievedly vulgar. That's appropriate in a way, because Guidone gloried in stretching the bounds of taste. But there was another side to him, a more artistic, more refined side, as shown in the masks he made for many area theater companies.
The masks, along with photos of Guidone by Michael Hauptschein and a 10-minute video collage of his performance work put together by Jamie Walters, were displayed in a room off the lobby. They're grotesque, but in a beautiful, magical way. Brightly colored, half animal (but it's not easy to tell exactly what animal), half human, they're the kind of thing the Beast in a fairy tale would wear. They're fragile and fantastic, and seem to have a life of their own -- the sightless slits of eyes follow one around the room.
Only Michelle Ava, in her two solos, "Journey" and "Haiku," both of which used Guidone's masks, paid tribute to this aspect of Guidone's art and succeeded in capturing, at least partially, the mystical powers he seemed to attribute to masks.
Other participants in the event, produced by the George Washington University Department of Theatre and Dance, were Axolotl, Karin Abromaitis, XIO, Momentum Dance Theatre and Upright Vertebrates.