'Don Quixote' was Yan Chen's vehicle for perfection MEMORABLE MOMENTS

December 27, 1992|By J.L. Conklin | J.L. Conklin,Contributing Writer

It's the time of year when we often find ourselves falling almost uncontrollably in and out of nostalgic reveries. This can be brought on by radio stations playing the year's top songs, by writing or receiving holiday letters or by reading lists written by people like myself, who wistfully remember the best and sometimes worst events of the past year.

As dance years go, 1992 was slightly above average. Any dance fan hopes to get lucky at least once during the season and come away from a performance with all sensibilities satisfied. This year there were several terrific moments; picking just one seems almost impossible because it is rare to find all works on a given program remarkable or even above average.

A truly magnificent stage presence and technique can often overcome trite choreography, and terrific choreography can lift a lackluster performer. When superb dancing and choreography coalesce, the effect can be powerful.

While there were several good performances by local and out-of-town dancers, the one that most impressed me was by Yan Chen and Kevin McKenzie of the Washington Ballet in the warhorse "Don Quixote" pas de deux at Goucher College last spring.

Unfortunately, this was the last Baltimore performance of the Washington Ballet with Kevin McKenzie at its artistic helm. He resigned at the beginning of the fall season to return to the American Ballet Theatre. Although the program presented in May was basically uneven, Ms. Chen's spirited and daring dynamics

pushed her from being just another good dancer to a world-class performer.

There is a moment in a dancer's career when he or she comes of age, when all the long hours of study and rehearsal pay off. This was Ms. Chen's moment. Her performance was inspiring. It blended her understanding of drama, her energy, her musical wit and her formidable technique in a work that has been danced to oblivion.

Ms. Chen and Mr. McKenzie made this well-worn excerpt bristle with drama and passion until it felt brand new. When Ms. Chen smartly cracked her fan, the audience knew she was used to getting her way, and when she fell with graceful abandon into her partner's arms, it was total romantic surrender.

This was a flawless performance, the kind that keeps dance fans coming back, hoping the magic will strike again.

HONORABLE MENTION

Other dance performances deserve honorable mention for transporting the viewer out of the ordinary:

* "Typhoon" by Dansgroep Krisztina de Chatel at Theatre Project.

* Elizabeth Streb Ringside in the Off the Wall series at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

* Eiko and Koma in the Dance on the Edge series at Towson State University.

* "Dido and Aenas" by Mark Morris at the Kennedy Center.

* Performance by the Hubbard Street Dance Company at the Kennedy Center.

* "Serious Pleasures" by Ulysses Dover with the American Ballet Theatre at the Kennedy Center.

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