A series falters, but the calendar remains promising

September 11, 1994|By J. .L Conklin | J. .L Conklin,Special to The Sun

For the past several years, the dance season has been jump-started by the Dance on the Edge Series and its high-voltage performances from national and international contemporary dance groups. This year, however, DOE is almost DOA.

Why is it foundering? The obvious answer is funding problems. The less obvious answer is the lack of autonomy. Relocating the event from its original venue at the Baltimore Museum of Art to the Towson State University campus was supposed to help the organization. But audiences have dwindled.

This summer, DOE's managing director resigned, and the series won't officially begin until 1995. Karen Bradley, chairwoman of Towson State University's Dance Department, which co-sponsors the Dance on the Edge series, says the series is in the process of hiring a new managing director.

While the series has shrunk from six events to three, it is still the only bet for contemporary dance.

The series is in need of a financial transfusion, and a benefit will be held Jan. 17-18, featuring the Pickle Family Circus.

Other series performances include the Urban Bush Women, an African-American, New York-based contemporary dance company, Feb. 17-18 at Morgan State University; Clair Porter in "Portables" in March (date to be determined); and the Bella Lewitzky Dance Company at the Gordon Center for the Performing Arts, May 20-21.

There is no shortage of other dance events to fill your calendar. Twyla Tharp opens the 1994-1995 season with "Twyla in Washington: New Work," featuring seven dancers and a variety of music. Ms. Tharp will appear at the Kennedy Center from Sept. 14 to Oct. 2.

The Washington Performing Arts Society has a terrific lineup of events, both at the Kennedy Center and at the newly gilded Warner Theatre in D.C. A don't-miss event is the electric jazz dancing of the Hubbard Street Dancers Nov. 2-6.

Closer to home, Chen and Dancers, with their fusion of Asian sensibilities and Western dance, will appear at Towson State University's Stephens Hall Theatre Sept. 24 in conjunction with the West Meets East exhibition at the university. Chen and Dancers will also be part of the Dance America Series at the Kennedy Center.

Baltimore's dance scene is seeing new companies and dancers fill the gaps left by the demise and defection of past dance community members.The performance schedules, however, are erratic. There is still no place for dance in Baltimore.

The Baltimore Museum of Art has a lineup of local talent presenting independent evenings of dance, including the LTC Baltimore Dance Collaborative Oct. 1, the Kimberly Mackin Dance Company Oct. 22, and choreographer Nancy Wanich-Romita's newly formed the Moving Company Nov. 5. This fledgling company will also dance at the Greater Washington Jewish Community Center in January and at New York City's Cunningham Space in March.

The Washington Ballet looks to academia for performance space when it dances in Baltimore. The company will dance at Washington College in Chestertown Oct. 8 and at Goucher College's Kraushaar Auditorium March 3.

The Howard County-based Kinetics Dance Theater and the Ballet Theatre of Annapolis are lucky companies, with homes to call their own -- the Howard County Center for the Arts and the Maryland Hall for Creative Arts, respectively. Kinetics will be in rehearsal until the spring, when you can catch the company fresh from a New York City performance, on March 24-25. Ballet Theater of Annapolis will present its fall program Oct. 21-22, featuring a new work by choreographer Stephanie Powell.

The Doris Humphrey Repertory Company was iced out of its performance at Stephens Hall last winter. This year the company plans to try again with a performance of historical dances created by seminal choreographer Doris Humphrey.

Last year, the abundance of performances of "The Nutcracker" created a marketing war and undoubtedly confused a lot of parents who felt duty-bound to culturally uplift their offspring. Again this year, any parents wishing to take their aspiring ballerina or danseur have plenty of choices. But you can't beat the Joffrey Ballet at the Kennedy Center Opera House, Dec. 7-18.

The Kennedy Center's program doesn't have the luster of past years. There is an overabundance of Balanchine ballets on the various company's programs, and there are too many company retreads

The obvious highlight will be the Australian Ballet, which as part of the center's Australian Festival will feature the lighthearted ballet "Don Quixote," created for the company by the late Rudolf Nureyev. The company will dance at the Opera House Oct. 11-16.

A must-see: the distinguished American Ballet Theatre's area premiere of "Manon" by Sir Keith MacMillan, as well as "The Red Shoes," choreographed by Lars Lubovitch, Feb. 28 through March 5 at the Opera House.

The Washington Ballet will feature Amanda McKerrow as the season's guest artist; she will dance with the company as her schedule allows. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the School of the Washington Ballet, and a gala performance is planned for Nov. 5 at the Kennedy Center.

The Dance America Series at the Kennedy Center, co-sponsored by the Washington Performing Arts Society, has an interesting lineup of contemporary companies, beginning with Ghettoriginal Productions Dance at the Terrace Theatre, Jan. 10-11.

This season may not be the brightest for Baltimore, but with discriminating choices, it could be satisfying.

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