"Ohio Reunion," the title given to yesterday afternoon's concert at the Dance Place, referred to the fact that all four of its prime participants -- Jan Van Dyke, Linda Gold, Jefferson James and Cathy Paine -- have choreographed or performed with James' contemporary dance theater in Cincinnati. But the connections go further: Van Dyke, one of the leading figures in the development of dance in Washington, served as a role model and inspiring force for both James and Paine, who went on to form their own companies and bring contemporary dance to many locales across the country.
All but Van Dyke exhibited their special ways of moving on this program, which consisted of five solos and one group work. Gold exudes an exotic, otherworldly aura; she's an '80s version of early modern dance pioneer Ruth St. Denis. James, a short, muscular dynamo, moves with a fierceness and staccato energy that at times seems almost pugilistic. Paine favors a cool, abstracted style; every arc and ripple created by her reed-thin body speaks of control and calculation.
Choreographically, the program was somewhat undernourished. Gold's two solos seemed weak variations on American Indian and East Indian traditional dances. James' performances of Shawn Womack's "Numerical Match" and Diane Germaine's "No Way Out" could not have been more polished or heartfelt, but the solos themselves -- the first a wordy reflection on work versus pleasure, full of movement out of tennis games and cowboy flicks; the second a frantic, flailing study in fear and paranoia set to a score of relentless squeaks and creaks -- proved overblown and unfocused.
Paine's "Preliminary Breakdown," a finely crafted study of how movement can be carefully dissected, was aided immeasurably by Julyen Norman's huge black-and-white slides of body parts seen in close-up, X-ray and microscopic form. The real highlight of the concert was Van Dyke's 1982 "Spike," a chilly, punkish quartet wedded rhythmically and atmospherically to its throbbing Laurie Anderson score. It received a standout performance by James and three members of her Cincinnati-based troupe.