Phoenix sans cohesion

March 26, 1994|By J. L. Conklin | J. L. Conklin,Special to The Sun

Phoenix Dance Company titled its three-day performance that opened Thursday at the University of Maryland Baltimore County Theatre "A Mosaic of Dance." Perhaps this compensates for the fact that during most of the program's six dances, Phoenix felt less like an ensemble and more like a group of choreographers who just happened to have some dances to perform.

This feeling of artistic isolation was underlined by four guest students from Philadelphia's Temple University who performed in the premiere of "La Petite Ballet de Chance Extraodinaire," by Douglas Hamby on the faculty of UMBC, that opened the evening. With the exception of Sandy Chase in the solo "Letting Go" which followed, the student dancers looked like student dancers, and did not comfortably fit on the program next to the likes of Sandra Lacey and Amanda Wood Thomson.

"Ballet" is a flippant, almost terminally cute, dance that drags up cliches and arguments that pit modern dance against ballet. One might think Twyla Tharp had resolved this in the 1980s, but Mr. Hamby insists on putting tutus on his dancers and having them flap their arms like dying swans or turn in one more ubiquitous arabesque. The second section is more interesting, but it is neither substantial nor funny.

"Opening Ceremony," another Phoenix premiere, was choreographed by its executive director, Elizabeth Walton. Nicely performed by UMBC student Eric Jenkins, the dance is a puzzlement.

On a pedestal in the center of the stage, Mr. Jenkins presents us with a series of poses, mostly culled from yoga. On a screen behind him are projected images of his day-to-day life. There is no overt relationship between his actions on screen and those he performs. Two-thirds through the dance, he leaves the pedestal and his dancing expands with fuller movements. Suddenly the film ends. When the dancer sees the blank screen, he collapses.

Ms. Walton's dance unfortunately leaves the audience puzzling over her intent. Mr. Jenkins' character never emotionally connects with us despite those personal scenes. There is

something here about our inner and outer life, but it got bogged down in the film and was choreographically too fuzzy and unfocused.

One highlight was Ms. Lacey's solo, "Song of Light (Lost and Found)." She may be a novice, but her dance shows remarkable ability in bringing the audience into her special world.

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