One of the oft-repeated facts about Gus Solomons -- whose Solomons Company/Dance performed at Mount Vernon College this past weekend -- is that at MIT he earned a degree in architecture. It's repeated not only because of the accomplishment per se, unusual enough for a dancer, but also because it's obviously pertinent to his choreography. His dances have the look of a carefully blueprinted balance of forces, not just in the proportioning of ensembles, but as well in the way movements of individual dancers make one aware of muscular and skeletal articulation -- the body as edifice.
Architectural savvy is one of his strengths. As a performer, he's an outstanding veteran of troupes, such as those led by Martha Graham, Donald McKayle and Merce Cunningham. He's been choreographing and leading his own company since the early '70s, and has been a forceful spokesman for the dance field on numerous councils and panels. He's also brilliantly articulate as a critic, as his reviews in The Village Voice and other publications have testified.
Among his other qualities is a wry wit, as demonstrated in the first of three works on the Mount Vernon program, "Carnal Midway," with a score by Kenneth Schafer Jr. From an armchair at the front of a darkened stage, Solomons announces, "Y'know, I really hate dances with talking in them," and proceeds, of course, to further talk. A little later comes, "Don't worry, these words have absolutely nothing to do with this dance," which turns out to be not quite the case. As he continues, he switches on colored lamps attached to the chair, and turns the chair itself in several directions. The monologue ends with "You can do a lot of things while you're sitting -- watch TV, eat, worry -- anything but dance," which all his behavior thus far has contradicted.
Leaving the chair and the talk behind, he then performs a brief, desultory solo marked by such recurrent motifs as a pelvic bump, twisty turns and a high step through his looped arms as though he were climbing out of a cockpit.
From his recent "Boneyard," Solomons' company of two women and four men performed a suite of overlapping solos, set against an intriguing sound score by Jalalu-Kalvert Nelson that ran a gamut from metallic janglings to breathy hisses and dribbling chimes. The choreography attested to Solomons' interest in pure movement exploration. Each solo had its own characteristic texture and imagery -- one featured abrupt jumps and broad arm arcs; another, push-ups, splits and floor rolls; and still another, a man's waddling advance in a crouch with splayed knees, like a slow-moving frog.
Like "Boneyard," "Chryptych" showed Solomons' continuing indebtedness to Cunningham, in the look of the movement, the use of space and the independence of music (by Schafer, again) and dance. The original "Chryptych" was evening length and "site specific," i.e., created with the physical layout of New York's St. Mark's Church in mind. This abbreviated version, for Solomons and his troupe of six, retained remnants of the idea -- the dancers first appeared standing between columns that line the upper story of Hand Chapel, then descended on opposing staircases to line the stage sides. The rest of the piece was conspicuously architectural as well. Framing a trio and several duets and solos (including a rangy episode for Solomons) were basic geometric formations -- triangle, circle and square. At the end, Solomons stood alone at the rear while the others rested in a supine array, like logs in a lumberyard.
It was a splendid evening of cool, intelligent, absorbing dance. The only pity was that more of the dance community didn't show up to savor it.