Local choreographer/dancer Juliet Forrest, artistic director of the Forrest Collection, has a well-developed social conscience. Her company of six dancers, along with several local musicians, composers, designers and actors, have gathered their talents togeather in a concert at Goucher College to benefit AIDS service agencies in the Baltimore area.
The program of Ms. Forrest's choreography that opened last night featured two new works, "Oh My Jesse, I'm Not Believing This! (Dorothy Helms Exclaims After Slamming Shut the Mapplethorpe Catalogue" and "Una Noche Oscura -- A Dark Night of the Soul."
"Voice Vote for China" and "A Lengthy and Humorous Reconstructed Near Miss, A Calamity in Nine Acts," rounded out the evening of dances that proved Ms. Forrest's choreography can hit both intellectual and emotional bull's-eyes.
"Oh My Jesse" is a brilliant and funny commentary on the Mapplethorpe fiasco. The work alternates between the taped, witty and endearing dialogue of two women looking at Mapplethorpe's catalog, and Ms. Forrest's solos. The dialogue is sharp and clever; the dancing is distinct and inventive; the music is Motown.
Ms. Forrest juxtaposes gesture with popular dance forms. Sometimes she's James Brown or a cool Sammy Davis Jr., picking up and mutating their mannerisms. She's also shocked by her actions, and she clasps her hand to her heart and teeters as if mortally wounded. The actions are abstract yet fluent, and they illustrate or ignore the lyrics of the songs.
"Una Noche Oscura" was the serious dance premiere that was set to an original score by Tom Benjamin, based on text by St. John of the Cross and accompanied by baritone Randal Woodfield and musician Lisa Goldman Weiss on the clavinova.
Ms. Forrest has a flair for spatial composition, and her four dancers evoked a strong sculptural sense with their spacing and mirrored images. Unfortunately, Mr. Benjamin's score was not listener-friendly with its atonal melody and free-ranging rhythms.
The program will be repeated at 8 p.m. today in Goucher's Kraushaar Auditorium.