Ballet or modern: dance is dance

SWITCHING PARTNERS IN DANCE

July 18, 1991|By J. L. Conklin

At first glance, their choices seemed to go against the choreographic grain. Jennifer Muller, a modern dance choreographer, selected a ballet company to work with during a two-week dance residency here, while ballet choreographer Lisa deRibere picked a modern company.

But conversations with these two women, whose work will be featured Saturday at the Maryland Dance Showcase during Artscape '91, just prove that dance and dance creators are never static, and often defy categorization.

tTC "There seems to be a trend for modern choreographers to want to work with ballet companies," Ms. deRibere said, "but I wanted to do something that I hadn't done before: I wanted to get away from classical technique and get down on the floor."

Ms. deRibere, who has worked with the New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theater, chose Phoenix Repertory Dance Company, the resident dance company at UMBC, which has a decidedly modern slant. Phoenix will perform her latest work, "Trespasses," along with other company works on the Decker Stage at 7:15 p.m. Saturday.

Jennifer Muller's choice of Ballet Theater of Annapolis for the Artscape performance of her newest work, "Arm in Arm in Arm . . ." only proves, as she said, "Good dance is good dance."

Ms. Muller has choreographed for modern, ballet and theater companies and has worked with Keith Jarrett and Yoko Ono. She explained she was drawn to the local ballet company because she wanted to work with a company with "high technical proficiency, and Eddie Stewart and his dancers have that."

Ms. Muller believes that modern dance and ballet aren't determined by the dancers who perform them, but by the works themselves.

"I'm not an abstractionist," she continued. "My impulse is to communicate, to move the audience."

Even so, the choreographic turnaround surprised both Phoenix's artistic director, Carol Hess, and Edward Stewart, artistic director of Ballet Theater of Annapolis.

Ms. Hess said she had expected Ms. deRibere, who has !B choreographed for the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, Ballet Chicago and San Francisco, to select a local ballet company for the dance residency sponsored by the Mayor's Advisory Committee Art and Culture and the Baltimore Festival for the Arts, Inc.

Said Ms. Hess, "Some of our dancers have more classical training than others, but she said she wanted a different group of people and that she wanted to experiment. Her new work is definitely modern and does not look at all like a ballet."

Ms. deRibere said what attracted her to the group "was their ability to move very quickly, and that they could deal with complex and difficult musical scores." She wasn't at all disappointed once she met the dancers.

"They didn't have the resistance to trying something new that ballet dancers sometimes have," she said.

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