Lesole Z. Maine knows how to get things started. The beginnings of the four works on his premiere evening of dance indicate that this choreographer has a knack for statement-making. Born outside Johannesburg, Maine relocated to Silver Spring five years ago and founded Lesole's Dance Project in 2003.
His first full evening of choreography Saturday at Dance Place demonstrated meaningfulness without feeling overwrought or overproduced. In fact, humor and lightness shared the stage equally with power and ferocity. "Rewind, Take It Back," the program's most ambitious work, dealt squarely with the racism that has riven South Africa for generations, yet it never felt polemical.
Maine revisited his urban roots in hip-hop and pantsula, a South African fusion of contemporary street dance and traditional tribal influences. This juxtaposition of percussive footwork -- slapped out by dancers in Keds and plaid shirts -- and the articulated and contracting torso of African-style movement reveals embodied intersections of dance passing from neighborhood to neighborhood, continent to continent.
Emily Berry's pulsing video backdrop captured homegrown D.C. graffiti and hip-hop moves peppered with stomach-churning images of the 1992 Boipatong massacre, where more than 40 people were killed as police seemingly stood by. Then came the tensely driven call-and-response of the South African gumboots, a percussive dance form slapped out on the soles and knee-high sides of rubber Wellington boots. Maine found vibrancy and defiance in this dance, created by South African miners who worked under deplorable conditions. With his five women dancers, he snappily performed the sharply parsed percussive score, punctuated by commands shouted in tribal languages Sotho, Zulu and Xhosa.
-- Lisa Traiger