Saturday, March 29, 2003

Dayton troupe soars with energy, patriotism

Dance review

By Carol Norris
Enquirer contributor

Dayton Contemporary Dance Company is in the middle of a year-long celebration of the 100th anniversary of winged flight. The group brought two dance works connected with this project to Cincinnati this weekend, performing at the Aronoff's Jarson-Kaplan Theater through Saturday.

The entire city of Dayton is involved in "Flight Project" to honor the Wright Brothers with events and performances scheduled throughout the year in Dayton and elsewhere, including New York.

Choreographer Bill T. Jones' "and before..." had its world premiere in Dayton in February. Set to J. S. Bach's majestic "Chaconne," it is meant to be "...about a moment before something has to change," Jones has said, indicating he was concerned more with what people were feeling immediately before airplanes first took to the skies.

It's an odd dance, full of quirky moves - squiggly hips, rolling shoulders and intricate little foot doodles. Dancers seem to twitch nervously, waiting for something to happen.

A little too interested in his own cleverness, Jones fails to rise to the level of Bach's music.

Of more interest is Warren Spears' "On the Wings of Angels."

To the repetitions of contemporary music makers John Adams and Steve Reich, Spears has a cast of seven men dressed in white to symbolize the brave and selfless wartime efforts of the Tuskegee Airmen from World War II.

Made ever more poignant by where we are as a country today, the piece inspires with its lyricism. Through saluting, regimentation and precision in the movement, Spears portrays his theme of committed servicemen without becoming too literal.

Works not connected to the "Flight Project" include Ulysses Dove's "Vespers" and Debbie Blunden-Diggs' "Traffic."

Each work celebrates the strengths of the Dayton dancers, yet in different ways.

"Vespers" is for six women and is Dove's imaginings of what his grandmother experienced at all-female Sunday church services. It's full of raw speed and energy.

Blunden-Diggs' jazz-inspired "Traffic," to the relentless drumming of Kodo, shows the deep sensuality and rhythmic ownership of the dancers, with an exuberant finale that only a martini could calm.

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