Nancy Havlik's Dance Performance Group presented an uneven and disappointing program Sunday at Dance Place. The featured work, "Pursuit of Happiness," was uninspired and conceptually confused on many levels.
The work opened with the five dancers in clear plastic raincoats over black athletic wear, moving energetically across the stage: walking, running, leaping and hopping. The beautiful strains of Bach, played by a solo cellist seated on stage, linger in the air. The dancers begin talking to the audience about what the pursuit of happiness means. Is it the pursuit of land or water or peace or gold?
Next the dancers showcased the lives of three people, reading parts from their obituaries: the first African American Rodeo star, a Washington educator and Gray Panthers activist, and a visionary architect. Unfortunately the movements that went along with this section were very limited and often appeared like angst-ridden grasping into the air or simply milling about on stage. The first half finished with the dancers moving at glacial speed, slowly snapping their raincoats closed.
A scene of dancers sitting amid large hand-formed copper bowls in piles on the stage began the second half of the evening. In a vague reference to tribal culture, they sang together and slowly rearranged the bowls, spreading them across the floor.
The dancers repeated a series of movements that suggested washing, stirring and scooping, before retiring to sit and enjoy the excellent music. The quartet -- flute, guitar, and two percussionists -- was lively and syncopated, and their repertoire ranged from haunting Middle Eastern rhythms to blues riffs.
The dancers, clearly accomplished, and with excellent vocal skills, brought some energy to the mediocre and monotonous choreography.
Afterward, the company and musicians invited everyone for a dance party on the stage, which was the highlight of the evening.
-- Barbara Allen