Baryshnikov's troupe modern and exquisite

May 21, 1994|By J. L. Conklin | J. L. Conklin,Special to The Sun

Mikhail Baryshnikov has found his niche as a 40-something dancer, and he's not dancing ballet. This time, Mr. Baryshnikov and a handful of exquisite dancers are presenting two programs of distinctly modern works at the Warner Theatre in Washington.

Program A., seen on Wednesday's opening night, provided works by Hanya Holm, Jerome Robbins, Merce Cunningham and Joachin Schlomer. Additional works by Mark Morris, Kevin O'Day and Twyla Tharp will be performed during a sold-out Washington stay.

In a way, the dances on the program provide an overview of differing styles within the modern dance genre. "Jocose," choreographed by Ms. Holm and reconstructed by Don Redlich from a Labanotation Score, gave us a look at Ms. Holm's distinctive style -- a way of moving that holds the back straight above the pelvis and allows the arms to move as if connected to the waist.

Wonderfully danced to Ravel's "Sonata for Violin and Piano" by Nancy Colahan, John Gardner, Patricia Lent, Keith Sabado and Ruthlyn Salomons, the dance in three sections was delightful in its humorous and often fantastical imagery.

"Signals," a work for six dancers by Mr. Cunningham, is a challenging work that is beautiful in its technical complexities, and this troupe performed with skill. Most of the movements in Mr. Cunningham's work are balletic in nature, but have been disassembled into components.

Of course, the reason the Warner Theatre was packed was because of Mr. Baryshnikov. In "A Suite Of Dances," choreographed by Jerome Robbins, Mr. Baryshnikov showed what all the fuss was about. "A Suite" was really a duet for Mr. Baryshnikov and Wendy Sutter; they adeptly performed to selections from Bach's "Suites for Solo Cello." While the five dances were simple -- no high bounding leaps, no fancy pyrotechnic turns -- they demonstrated Mr. Baryshnikov superb agility and his obvious love of the dance.

The White Oak Project is a terrific company, and the caliber of both the dancing and the choreography is guaranteed to impress even ballet aficionados.

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