On a stage full of dancers, when one ought to be watching all of them, sometimes one or two catch the eye and won't let it go. This happened over the weekend at Dance Place with Lisa Gillespie and "Ajax" Joe Drayton, members of Momentum Dance Theatre.
Gillespie is a standard type, except that she does everything with such clarity and urgency that one is continually surprised. Her stretch is total, yet delicate. There's continuity in her phrasing, but all her fluidity returns to a strong center. In ensembles, or in the duets she danced with Deborah Bailay and Luke Loy, she responded sensitively to the other performers. Nevertheless, Gillespie outdanced them without even seeming to try.
Drayton is anything but your classroom exemplar. He can be tense and loose, spiky and smooth, all at the same time, and there's plenty of room in his long frame for these states to coexist without causing chaos. As a dancer or as a mime, he can separate part of his body and send it traveling away from him. This happened most effectively when, as a street person, he encountered Loy's affluent man of affairs. Drayton, sitting slumped and glum, raised and opened one of his hands so slowly and strongly that it floated after Loy and pulled him back when he had rushed past too busy to bother.
This duet in "Triptik," a work about life in Washington, and the one for Gillespie and Loy, which is about aloof romance and occurs in the same work, were choreographer Roberta Rothstein's best efforts. Rothstein, who directs the Momentum company and is responsible for much of the repertory, often responds to the most diverse music by stinting on steps and splurging on gags. There's nothing wrong with a sense of humor, but doesn't Bach's "Brandenburg" Concerto No. 2 call for jokes more complex than slumps and falls, and Beethoven's Sonata No. 3 for Cello and Piano demand more variety than the repetition of one semi-funny encounter between a dancer and a work crew? Even in the tango piece "Deceptions," Rothstein's continued mock anger at file folders seems pretty thin.
The program's premiere piece, "You and the Night and the Music," was choreographed and performed by Drayton, Rothstein and composer Rob Orwin. Orwin, to a frantic musical collage, mimed a train conductor, an orchestra conductor and a variety of other directors and doers. And he was the authority figure who censored Rothstein and Drayton's torrid duet. This time we were intentionally shortchanged of satisfying choreography.