Energy and inspiration enliven dance concert


June 14, 1993|By J. L. Conklin | J. L. Conklin,Contributing Writer

Eva Anderson's Baltimore Dance Theatre celebrated its 18th year during the weekend with a solid concert of dances at the Baltimore Museum of Art. The six works choreographed by Ms. Anderson, dances from 1978 to this year, were those that were most requested from her loyal followers.

Ms. Anderson's choreographic style is rooted in the technique of Martha Graham, although she has bolstered it with her own African American-inspired vocabulary. It is a combination that works well.

Current company members Yvette Shipley, Andrew Dove, Tracie Gross Johnson, Charles Carter and Nicole Bell were joined by past company members Branch Morgan and Rene Reynolds.

Opening the program was "Winter of Our Days" from 1982, a suite of dances to the familiar spirituals. As the dancers solemnly moved to the refrains of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," "Steal Away" or picked up the tempo in "Rocka My Soul," Ms. Anderson's strong spatial and dramatic sense was evident. In "Rocka My Soul," the quiet contraction of the dancers' torsos effectively echoed back and forth between the three couples like drums reverberating across the hills.

In "Deep Blues" from 1986, Ms. Anderson commissioned a score from jazz composer Don Pullen. One of Ms. Anderson's talents is her ability to rhythmically enlarge the everyday gesture. Her dances are terrifically attuned to the music and often hold surprises in their rhythmic sophistication. Ms. Anderson creates familiar male-female scenarios then changes their movements into fine riffs of rhythmic play.

"Br'er Rabbit," a comic parable expertly visualized by the company along with Mr. Morgan to music by Bobby McFerrin was up to its usual slapstick humor.

Miles Davis' "Sketches of Spain" provided the inspiration for Ms. Anderson's most recent work. Considerably improved since its debut in February, this dance for two men and four women worked best as an abstract interpretation of the music. When the dance became literal, it lost its magic.

"Rhythms," a blowout of a dance, closed the evening. This eclectic dance incorporated ball, African, modern and jazz dancing performed with terrific energy. Fast turns in unison gave way to leaps, hips swayed, shoulders shook and the dancers finding a partner executed a fancy dip. It was so good to see this company back to its exciting self.

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