ONCE YOU'VE heard it, it's hard to forget a name like Toe Jam & Fresh Jelly. And after you've watched the two gifted members of this dance company in action, the shapes and interactions brought to life by Donna Gangloff and Mary Williford stay in the mind for a long time.
Both slim and unconventionally attractive, they move together like close friends, intertwined branches. They understand each other so well that in an intimate and detailed duet like Susan Marshall's "Kin," one immediately identifies the pair as sisters. You think: there's a history there.
But separate them, and their work is no less evocative. Gangloff excels in both the rough-and-tumble and lyrical pieces, but her best moments are those in which she is required to move in sustained, dreamy fashion. And though Williford has expanded her stylistic range tremendously during the past several years, her forte is physicalized neurosis and angst. Contortion, frenzied speed and abandon, wild jumps and risky falls come as naturally to her as moonwalking does to Michael Jackson. She's the dancing equivalent of Edvard Munch's "The Scream."
The two women share an impressive performance background. Both have danced with the esteemed local companies of Maryland Dance Theater and Daniel West and Dancers. Both are now members of the New York-based Mark Taylor and Friends, which recently played here to packed houses. In addition, Williford dances with Mark Dendy and Company and has also taken up choreography. Her "Soul Bone Akimbo," created with Deborah Luster, premieres on Toe Jam's weekend programs at the Dance Place. Also on tap: Dendy's "Beat" and "Chant," Bebe Miller"s "Gypsy Pie," and "Betty and the Book," a caricature of spiritual duality by the satiric duo Shapiro and Smith.
The Washington Ballet's Winter Series of performances is one of beginnings and endings. New ballets by the company's recently installed assistant artistic directors, James Canfield and Kirk Peterson -- in each case the first work created for the Washington Ballet -- signal an infusion of fresh ideas. The revival of Choo-San Goh's haunting "In the Glow of the Night" serves as a bittersweet reminder of its creator's untimely death last November, and the end of an artistic era for the ensemble.
It remains to be seen whether Canfield's theatrical chair-and-ladder dance "A Matter of Change" or Peterson's ultra-romantic "Ballades" will add innovation or luster to the repertoire. One thing is certain, however: With the treasure trove of ballets that is Goh's legacy, the Washington Ballet will always have a raison d'e~tre.
TOE JAM & FRESH JELLY --
Saturday at 8:30 p.m., Sunday at 4. The Dance Place, 3225 Eighth Street NE. Tickets $11, $7.50 for students and seniors. 269-1600.
WASHINGTON BALLET --
Friday at 8, Saturday at 2 and 8. Lisner Auditorium, 21st and H streets NW. Evening performances $20, matinee $17.50. 362-3606.