Carla & Company

For Carla Perlo, making dances is about creating a community. The four works she crafted for her two companies--Carla & Company and Carla's Kids--and showcased Sunday afternoon at Dance Place rely greatly on unison work, interwoven lines of dancers and communal circles. The program provided a healthy blend of kid- and parent-friendly dances that were fun and easy to digest.

Perlo, who has been a driving force in the local modern dance community for nearly a quarter-century, allowed her dancers--13 adults in all--a moment to speak about themselves before the movement began. In "The Renewal," 10 dancers savor their bodies and renew their spirits with easygoing leg swings, voluptuous stretches and dancer-to-dancer massages. "Ups & Downs," a premiere, expanded on the theme that when life gets tough, communal support can help make the going easier. This post-intermission curtain raiser also included brief dancer introductions and an inspirational sermonette from Perlo before the dancers took off into space to selections from Earth, Wind & Fire. Four ladders were put into service to expand on Perlo's theme: Life is a roller-coaster ride but friends, colleagues and family will help navigate the hills.

Carla's Kids demonstrated Perlo's deep-rooted dance evangelism in action. These nine youngsters, in their jeans and T-shirts, added energy and effervescence to the program. "Verbs, Action Words" gives a kid's-eye view of movement vocabulary, ranging from "walk" and "run" to "agree" and "negotiate."

"Jump Into Life" merged both companies in a playful and zestful finish that borrowed from street games--hopscotch and jump rope--to relish the joy of bodies in motion.

--Lisa Traiger

Annapolis Opera

Mozart opera arias sung by candlelight Sunday evening at historic Charles Carroll House in Annapolis, in the very rooms where George Washington was once received, produced a concert filled with late 18th-century allusions.

While Annapolis Opera and Carroll House have regularly given December Mozart concerts, this occasion was remarkable for consistently fine performances from four young artists.

Arias from "Cosi Fan Tutte" ("Come scoglio") and "The Magic Flute" ("Ach, ich fuhl's"), operas dating from 1790 and 1791, were delivered expressively and in pure tones by soprano Angela Fout. Coloratura Angela Caesar sang a seldom-heard concert aria ("Voi avete un cor fedele") allegedly written by Mozart for Baldassare Galuppi's opera "Le Nozze"; and she handled "O zittre nicht" from "Magic Flute" securely.

A distinct treat was a "Cosi" duet ("Ah guarda sorella") by Fout and mezzo-soprano Lori Hultgren; they made the words and the characters' situation palpable. Hultgren followed with Dorabella's "tantrum" aria from "Cosi."

Bass-baritone Robert Cantrell's large voice seemed much at home in Mozart. He charmed with Papageno's opening aria from "Magic Flute," was coolly irate in the Count's big aria from "The Marriage of Figaro" and, with Caesar as Susanna, was an ardent suitor in "Crudel, perche finora."

Trills and some other aspects of ornamented singing may have needed work, but the abilities and presence of these four were never overshadowed.

--J.F. Greene

Gay Men's Chorus

The 150 voices of the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, under the direction of Gregory Ruffer and Timothy M. George, filled the National City Christian Church Sunday afternoon.

The "Holiday Traditions With Our Family" concert opened with "Les Anges Dans Nos Campagnes," offering fine melodic dialogue between the antiphonal choir and the chancel choir. Franz Biebl's "Ave Maria" featured soloists as reverent as monastic seminarians.

Organist Theodore Guerrant roared through the Toccata from Charles-Marie Widor's Symphony No. 5, while festive "alleluias" rang boldly from the chorus. The singers built an impressive mountain of sound, but the effect was eroded by a video of the organist's hands on an enormous screen behind the choristers.

After intermission, the chorus romped through 16 tunes from television Christmas specials.

Paying scant homage while parodying the extravaganzas, the medley saluted celluloid personalities, from campy bespangled Mr. Heat and Mr. Snow to earnest soloists who proclaimed belief in Santa Claus. The 12-voice close harmony group Potomac Fever's fey "Mr. Santa," with altered lyrics from "Mr. Sandman, Bring Me a Dream," generated hoots of laughter.

The program concluded with what the chorus does best: unified and enunciated vocal expression in a modern arrangement of "Silent Night," featuring dissonant tonal layers, and Handel's exuberant "Hallelujah, Amen" from "Judas Maccabeus."

--L. Peat O'Neil

Dominique Eade

Blame it on the misty cold weather or the bustling Christmas shopping season. Vocalist and songwriter Dominique Eade played to a sparse house Monday night at Blues Alley, much to the misfortune of those who like sublime vocal invention without the glaring affectedness. Eade is a dynamic, mesmerizing singer. She's not as high-profile as Cassandra Wilson and Diana Krall, but Eade is easily one of the finest vocalists on the contemporary jazz scene.

Leading a trio comprising pianist Bruce Barth, drummer Victor Lewis and Washington's Ed Howard on bass, Eade channeled the precise, detached allure of vintage June Christy and Chris Connor. Although her voice is practically no-frills, she displays an affinity for rhythmically complex melodies. That quality was best illustrated in her originals, particularly the oblique "Velvet" and the calypso-driven "Rounding the Bend." The latter featured her in a lively dialogue with the versatile Lewis as she exchanged knotty scat figures with his polyrhythmic webs.

While scatting is often used to conceal emotional callowness, Eade used the technique gracefully, even during a brisk reading of "But Not for Me."

But Eade is not all about rhythmic agility. She can nestle deeply inside a ballad, as evidenced by her enchanting renditions of Matt Dennis's "It Wasn't the Stars" and Henry Mancini's "Two for the Road."

--John Murph

CAPTION: Carla & Company presented family- oriented works at Dance Place.