Why tamper with the tried and true? This year's Scott Joplin Festival, like its predecessors, split its program with music in the first half and dances in the second and ended with the traditional "Cake Walk March."
The seventh festival, presented by Eva Anderson's Baltimore Dance Theatre yesterday at Howard Community College, opened with two strong musical works by pianist and composer David Alan Bunn and his accompanying quintet. The group Rude Kulcha rounded out the musical offerings.
Mr. Bunn introduced his works by telling the audience that he believed "music is an expression of life." His two jazz works, "Prelude in E Minor," a classically attuned work, and "Bogata," a piece composed as a tribute to the composer's South American friends, had audience members nodding their heads and tapping their feet to his rhythms.
Rude Kulcha took the stage next. This group, to quote the program, "has got a 'Ragadelic Techno-Folkmilia Bush' music thang goin on in a Rubba Dub style." They blended reggae with rap -- and not always with success.
After intermission, Ms. Anderson's talented dancers performed three dances. The first work, "Kadija," is the first part of a work in progress and is an abstracted riff on the rhythmic pattern suggested by the word "Kadija." Like many of Ms. Anderson's works, the movements are a blend of African dance steps and modern dance techniques. It is the rhythms that are the focus and fabric of this dance. Yet the work has a few rough spots -- the phrasing at times felt artificial -- yet the dance is still evolving.
Next, the company offered the first and third sections from "Sonata No. I." Here movements are definitely classical and abstract, and they float on top of George Walker's score, ably taking the waves of his rhythms. Ms. Anderson's choreographic instinct is impressive and the final section, where all the dancers play with the concept of centrifugal force, is exhilarating.
The third dance of the evening "Cakewalk Dance/When Dudes Walk," is really two dances in one. The first demonstrates the basic cakewalk steps, the latter is an exaggerated, more show-biz type of work.
The evening closed with the spirited company inviting "game" audience members on stage to learn "The Cake Walk March" -- a Scott Joplin Festival tradition.