Personality-infused modern dance, as local choreographer Lou Antonini calls it, invites performers' interpretations as well as those of the director. That's nothing new, and most dance watchers -- and anyone watching live performance for that matter -- would just call it good theater. In its debut evening at the Jack Guidone Theater Saturday, Antonini Dance Theater's six women substituted exaggerated facial expression -- mugging, wide-eyed silent gasps, crimping eyes -- for strong stage persona.
Personality in modern dance, though, is far from a revolutionary concept. The form was founded and propagated on the cult of personality, from independent-minded Isadora Duncan to maverick Martha Graham to iconoclast Merce Cunningham.
Journeyman choreographer Antonini, whose works have appeared on showcase programs for a number of years, like many independent dancemakers at work today, exhibits modest proficiency in moving bodies around the space, but less inventiveness. By the evening's close, the eight pieces left a residue of sameness in quality, form and movement originality. Didn't that horizontal line and successive arm wave in the swing-time "Ants in the Pants" also appear in the urban-pressured "At the Cellular Level?" How about those full-body swings from "Victorian Secret," a game of keep-away with an envelope that recalls choreographer David Parsons's much better rendering of the same idea, his titled "The Envelope."
Didn't those swings repeat in Lillian Cho's solo "Wearing Her Weakness?" While nothing is wrong with repetition or signature steps that recur across an artist's works, when the evening's choreography lacks distinctive moments, only snippets of repeated gestures, steps, groupings and floor patterns remain. A mega-dose of personality might have saved some of these works from obscurity, but the dancers just didn't have it.
-- Lisa Traiger