American Repertory Dance Company

March 23, 2001

Bonnie Oda Homsey and John Pennington retold modern dance history in Generation Next.
Photo by Rose Eichenbaum, courtesy American Repertory Dance Company

American Repertory Dance Company

Schoenberg Hall, University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California

March 23?24, 2001

Reviewed by Donna Perlmutter

Bonnie Oda Homsey’s brave little troupe, American Repertory Dance Company, has made an art of digging for lost treasures and emerging with works of immense imagination and trailblazing spirit by luminaries (Martha Graham, Anna Sokolow) and their lesser-known colleagues (Eve Gentry, Eleanor King). That’s no small feat in these days when stages are typically awash in flotsam and jetsam.

Until recently, American Rep had dedicated itself to reviving seminal works from those glory days of modern dance. But its latest effort, “Generation Next,” deals mostly with new choreography by Lar Lubovitch, Mark Morris, Susan Marshall, and others. Why? Because presenters insist on premieres, forgetting that much of the ticket-buying public doesn’t know one program from another.

So does “Next” measure up to the past? In a word, no. Graham’s Lamentations and Sokolow’s Kaddish are masterworks not easily matched. But there was a genuine excellence to some of the entries, and even a nod to those pioneers whose ghosts seemed to hover nearby.

Mark Dendy’s The Visit, for example, a world premiere danced by Homsey and John Pennington, called to mind Fokine’s romantic Le Spectre de la rose?except that the gossamer strains of Weber’s Invitation to the Dance were replaced by the first movement of Philip Glass’s ominously grating Concerto for Violin and Orchestra. And instead of the dreaming girl asleep in a chair, Homsey is torturously strained in hers, whipping back and forth as the man, working to exorcise her demons, calmly enters from behind and engages in some vague partnering maneuvers.

Jeff Slayton’s Remembering Viola, in which the choreographer dances in tandem with archival films of the late Farber, amounts to little more than a tribute. His Trio Sweep, however, a swirling piece with linear design, turned out to be perfect grist for the still-virtuosic Homsey, who is nearing age 50. And despite Eric Ruskin’s ruinously banal score, Homsey reveled in the movement, etching her phrases with a legibility, incisiveness, and dynamic tension that only the best dancers ever achieve. The others, Susan Gladstone and Diana MacNeil, were pleasing enough, if not brilliant.

While several pieces were mere trifles, Colin Connors’s “No, Resistance Is But Vain” (exerpted from The Rye Catchers) got into the bawdy baroque spirit of its Purcell score as danced by the choreographer and Debra Noble. Perhaps no dancer besides Nancy Colahan, vigorously passionate in the Astor Piazzolla tango, Memento, set by Christopher Pilafian, telegraphed so much zest for her art. But may the next programs feature what American Repertory does best: dances by the mothers of them all.