Jazz meets choreography

June 24, 1991|By J. L. Conklin

Eva Anderson's Baltimore Dance Theatre takes great pains in creating an evening that is both entertaining and enlightening. In this company's latest endeavor at the Baltimore Museum of Art this weekend, Ms. Anderson joined with jazz composer and pianist Don Pullen in a collaborative venture that illustrated the inherent compatibility of both art forms. Jazz is a true American ,, product, as is modern dance; Ms. Anderson's choreography and Mr. Pullen's music remedied the curious fact that the two forms only occasionally meet.

The first half of the program was dedicated to Mr. Pullen's works. Opening with the flamenco-inspired "Indio Gitano," Mr. Pullen and musicians Gary Richardson and Willie Barber warmed the audience to receive a standing ovation. Two solos by Mr. Pullen, the contemplative "Silence Equals Death" and a beautiful lullaby of sorts, "Ode to Life," were followed by the trio performing the warm and upbeat "Jana's Delight."

In the second half of the program, four dances by Ms. Anderson were set to Mr. Pullen's music and benefited by having live accompaniment. "Reach Yesterday I.O.U." was the highlight of three new works presented by the choreographer. Set in four sections, and with the company enlarged by several guest performers, the work was straight forward in its message of disenfranchised youth and theatrically attuned in its use of stylized pantomime.

One of Ms. Anderson's gifts as choreographer is her ability to rhythmically enlarge common gesture. From the men's cool loping walks to the strident posturing of the women, Ms. Anderson created succinct and familiar characters, then exploded their movements into fine riffs of rhythmic play.

"When Dudes Walk" was the least successful of the dances shown. Based on the "Cake-Walk," a dance that celebrates the overt macho strut, the dance was overly repetitive in structure and the contrasts between the historical "Cake-Walk" and today's dude walks were only superficially shown.

Closing the evening was "Sorongo," a blowout of a dance that was pure rhythmic satisfaction. Eclectic in style, the dance was a combination of African/Caribbean/jazz/ballroom dancing performed with all the energy that this troupe could muster. Fast turns in unison gave way to leaps, then hips would sway, shoulders would shake and the dancers finding a partner would execute a fancy dip.

The rhythms worked with and against the music, so that "Sorongo," like the rest of Ms. Anderson's dances, was layered with bright and sassy dialogue between the dancers and the composer.

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