One hates to slight the guy in the rhinestone-trimmed cowboy hat. But Bowen McCauley Dance, the local ballet-influenced contemporary dance company, packed enough bracingly textured work into “An Evening to Love” at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater on Wednesday night that the troupe’s new country-music-scored offering, “Far Behind” — featuring a singer in the aforementioned headgear — felt meager by comparison.
Far more rewarding was the lineup’s other world premiere: “Timed Connections,” an intriguing and resonant work set to Josef Suk’s Piano Quartet in A Minor. (All the evening’s choreography was by the company’s artistic director, Lucy Bowen McCauley.) Six dancers in lilac tunics shifted from lyrical to brisk and even agitated physicality against a background of softly draped fabric and a dangling silver curtain (Tony Cisek designed the set). A recurrent trope — in which dancers used their arms to make jerky rotational movements, as if mimicking the hands of clocks — seemed to echo the title. So the piece often seemed to muse on the fact that love, friendship, rivalries and community bonds are all influenced by accidents of timing.
Sometimes the imagery was pleasurably ambiguous: When dancer Domenico Miccolis, lying on the ground, lifted dancer Dustin Kimball in a slow support, the picture evoked a grappling match and a tentative embrace, simultaneously. Throughout the piece, the choreography exploited permutations and combinations to piquant effect, grouping dancers in pairs and trios, rearranging them, lining them all up, and deploying the odd dancer alone in a suggestion of loneliness — or maybe self-sufficiency. “Timed Connections” (which featured costumes by Chelsey Schuller and lighting by Martha Mountain) benefited hugely from its stirring live accompaniment by four terrific instrumentalists.
One of those musicians — Marguerita Oundjian Smith — paired with saxophonist Gary Louie to perform the Paule Maurice score for a revival of McCauley’s 2013 “Tableaux de Provence.” With the bubbly musical lines sometimes running in counterpoint to the pensive or buoyant-but-serene movement — like during a group stretching sequence on the floor or a moment in which the half-dozen dancers clustered and stacked their hands — the work seemed to speak of hormones racing beneath the veneer of decorous public behavior.
“Far Behind” had its own impressive sonic ingredient: music by the rock-country band Jason and the Scorchers. As a pianist and fiddler played in the orchestra pit, guitarist Warner E. Hodges and vocalist Jason Ringenberg stood on stage, the latter (in the cowboy hat) crooning a wistful song about a lover pining to leave his partner. Former Trey McIntyre Project dancer Ilana Goldman, in a brown dress, portrayed the woman who was seemingly destined to be abandoned; Gabriel Williams, in jeans and T-shirt, was the ambivalent heartbreaker. The two rolled passionately on the ground, pressed close together, cheek to cheek; repeatedly, he walked away, only to have her catch him by the wrist. The dancing was full of feeling, but movement and concept were too literal and obvious to be satisfying.
The lineup also included a lovely revival of the 2005 piece “Golconda,” in which, to the accompaniment of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis,” five dancers in draped yellow outfits moved like slow, mysterious flames.
Wednesday’s performance was the first of two planned evenings, but the Thursday performance, which was to have been followed by a soiree, was postponed because of inclement weather.
Wren is a freelance writer.
Bowen McCauley Dance. About 100 minutes.
Visit www.bmdc.org for updates on the
second performance and soiree.