Path Company finds solid footing 'Out on a Limb'

October 09, 1990|By J. L. Conklin

Path Dance Company is one of those troupes that makes you wonder why they don't draw larger audiences, and why they don't perform more often and in more visible settings.

This weekend at the Baltimore School of the Arts, Path gave a program titled "Out on a Limb" to benefit the Jeff Duncan Memorial Scholarship Fund, which will aid high school-age dancers. The performance was solid and moving.

"Snakes Don't Wear Shoes," which opened the program, is like most of artistic director Kathy Wildberger's works both allegorical and deeply personal, and draws heavily on gestures for its movement base. But "Snakes" had a more polished quality: The unison sections are cleaner, and the dancers -- Ms. Wildberger, Stephanie Powell, Mary Becker and Beverly Prahl -- created just the right atmosphere of happy mystery.

"Baby Face," Ms. Wildberger's premiere for herself and Beverly Prahl, uses props to create locale. Here a clothes line strung with odds and ends of apparel, and two chairs facing opposite directions, placed the work immediately outdoors. "Baby Face" deals with the relationship between a mother figure, Ms. Wildberger, and her wild child, Ms. Prahl. With movements closely attached to emotional and real-life actions, the pair engage in a battle of wills that culminates in a draw of sorts.

In Ms. Wildberger's large-scale "Big Talk," which closed the program, you get the sense that what is happening onstage is only part of what's going on, with much movement dialogue between the artistic director and her five dancers: A shoulder roll would be initiated, then picked up by the chorus only to come out perhaps as a hip action. It was very much like the child's game of telephone, with movement messages quickly telegraphed through the company's collective body with delightful and mystifying results.

Also on the program was "Diminishing Landscape," choreographed by the late Mr. Duncan. This reconstructed work had a disturbing psychological patina. The series of vignettes -- danced by Chris Dohse, Lisa Land, Mary Becker and Ms. Wildberger -- evoked a sense of journey, of compass points gone askew, of isolation and disorientation. Mr. Duncan's view is bleak and alienating, but convincing nonetheless.

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