Oakland Ballet, known for its meticulous, vital reconstructions of 20th-Century dance classics, brought a brilliant revival of Charles Weidman's 1936 "Lynchtown" to UC Irvine on Thursday. But otherwise the program in the Fine Arts Village Theatre consisted of undistinguished pieces.
In "Lynchtown," a dance drama abstracting crowd reactions to an offstage hanging, nine dancers launched with precision and relentless drive into Weidman's astonishing, stylized, regimented and repetitive modern-dance vocabulary, whether in stabbing, hunched-over jumps by the women or in aggressive phalanx-formations by the men.
Set against Lehman Engel's sparse, percussive Western score, Weidman's enforcement of rigid conformity--the work is confined mostly to a diagonal across the stage--only made the febrile quiverings by individuals and the asynchronous collapse of the women all the more arresting. Thus the moment when the men dragged on the body became gut-wrenching.
In contrast, Betsy Erickson's "At a Time When . . . " (choreographed in 1984 to Hovhaness' alternately ponderous and airy "Mountains and Rivers Without End") tried to contrast matriarchal and patriarchal culture through confrontations amid rock sculptures (by Douglas Heine) rearranged endlessly to signal significant developments. But the outcome was never in doubt: Matriarchy triumphed, and one woman was left behind to begin the cycle anew. Unfortunately, Erickson was unable to find movements that could carry the weight of these ideas; her work sank under its didacticism.
The level of dancing proved disappointing much of the evening, except for that by the remarkable, willowy Erin Leedom and the statuesque, commanding Joy Gim. All accompaniment was taped.
Completing the program were Marc Wilde's "Bolero" and company artistic director Ronn Guidi's "Trois Gymnopedies" and selections from "The Seasons" (after Raoul Pause); all have been previously reviewed.