Two jazz ballets and a mourning dance were on DC Contemporary Dance Theater's program of works by black choreographers Tuesday night at George Mason University, in honor of Black History Month. Jason Taylor's "Rainbow," from 1985, represented the jazz ballet norm from which Adrain Bolton's new "Ballet Jazz" diverged.
Taylor, to music by Joe Sample, made liberal use of flashing smiles, flicking hands, cute poses and those little shrugs and bumps that are as customary in passages of syncopation as olives in martinis.
Five couples entered and exited often in two fast-paced group sections separated by a duet for Lucy Bowen and Bolton, who had the most distinctive choreography. Or was it simply that Bolton knew how to use his body, which hasn't the standard dancer's streamlining? The tensions he generated gave pause for thought.
In his own "Ballet Jazz," to music by Jean-Luc Ponty, Bolton focuses first on a couple, Suzanne McCahill and Brandon Ellis. They're not the usual lovers but perhaps Adam and Eve, stepping into a new world. In the group section that follows, the ensemble is broken up so that each dancer's part becomes almost a solo role -- though no one ever breaks away completely. At the end of this short work, Adam and Eve are alone again.
"Yeriel," the elegy, was originally choreographed by Gene Hill Sagan for a female soloist, male partner and female chorus of three. DC Contemporary is currently casting a man, Douglas Weiss, in the solo role. It is a part that develops the theme of death and rebirth, and Weiss not only brings a clear line and litheness to the coloratura movement but also imbues it with the poignancy of hope.
Juan Carlos Rincones, as partner, principal mourner and celebrant of a rite, seems weighted down by the world -- an effective use of his muscular frame.
Weiss is a dancer to watch. He caught the eye even as part of the "Rainbow" ensemble; so did Lenore Pavlakos, the piece's girl in purple.