Maryland composers and their music for dance formed the backbone for the University of Maryland Baltimore County's Phoenix Repertory Company's concert that opened last night.
Musical compositions by local composers William-John Tudor, McGregor Boyle, Ferdinand Maisel and Scott Pinder were featured in new and old dances by UMBC faculty members Elizabeth Walton, Carol Hess and Douglas Hamby.
Rounding out this substantial exhibition were dances by guest artists Stephanie Skura and Lisa de Ribere, "Ghost Story" and "Trespasses," respectively.
The company's artistic director, Ms. Hess, opened the evening with the premiere of "In Tandem," a duet set to the music of Mr. Boyle and danced by Shelley Krpejs and Magira Ross. As the title suggests, unison plays a pivotal role in this work, but as the two women cautiously orbited each other, their dramatic tension was more evident in their singular movements.
"Ghost Stories," a collaborative venture between Ms. Skura and performers Linda Daniel, Jaye Knutson, Amanda Thom Woodson and Ms. Krpejs, was definitely tongue in cheek with its Gothic antics and music lifted from movies such as "Fahrenheit 451," "Mysterious Island" and "Journey to the Center of the Earth."
Ms. Skura's dancers were indeed a bit unearthly, and their disconnected movements and mindless repetition were often humorous. Yet Ms. Skura's ending lacks the visual punch this work deserves.
Douglas Hamby's new dance, "Letting Go," to the lush and hypnotic music of Ralph Vaughn Williams, was a carefully defined duet for Mr. Hamby and a lighted paper Japanese lantern. Looking alternately like Atlas carrying the world and a gigantic firefly, Mr. Hamby in his sustained movements carefully matched the score, but his performance was often uneven
Executive director Elizabeth Walton offered her "Framework," a well-crafted dance for one man and five women where angular movements are based on the fragmentation of architectural motif. Created in 1982, the dance effectively works with the score by Mr. Tudor.
"Trespasses" by Ms. de Ribere clearly demonstrated the choreographer's balletic background. However, Ms. de Ribere has several problems combining balletic form with primarily modern dancers. The problems were mostly seen in the lifts and in the timing.
The evening closed with the uplifting "Quintet" by Mr. Hamby, with music by Scott Pinder. This dance, with its circular patterns and alternating bright and muted sections, was expertly danced by Ms. Daniel, Ms. Knutson, Ms. Krpejs, Aimee Thomas and Nancy Safian. Mr. Hamby's work was wonderfully matched with the score, and its movements were as intricate or as simple as the musical themes.
The performance at the UMBC Theater will be repeated at 8 p.m. tonight and tomorrow.