Kevin Jeff, founder and artistic director of the Brooklyn-based Jubilation! Dance Company, can make works of fierce, dramatic punch and searing power; he can also construct pieces that rather slickly emphasize jazz and modern dance moves.
“Junto,” part of a program at El Camino College last week that will be repeated at Saddleback College on Friday, is one of the latter.
As danced locally by the company for the first time, it showcased, to a Brazilian-flavored jazz score by Pat Metheny, the 10-member troupe in high-powered synchronous group choreography, interspersed with soloists or clusters of dancers who emerged only to dissolve back into the group.
The mood was bright, playful and upbeat. The dancers were strong and vital. The work was lightweight.
But Jeff’s “Flack” was a tough, tense, uncompromising, unsentimental response to the evocative music of Roberta Flack, Quincy Jones and Donny Hathaway. Elana Anderson and Denise De Sousa had powerful solos, and the trio of men--Aaron Dugger, Darius Grandisson and especially Musafa Ogundada--evoked poignancy.
Here, as if they were Ninjas of the dance, the company members began their moves with deep gasps and lunges from the solar plexus, and the effect was visceral and electrifying.
“Dedication” also contained this kind of committed movement, offering an especially haunting duo by Ogundada and Grandisson. But Jeff was content to finish the work with a high-energy, all-purpose jazz romp that couldn’t bear the symbolic weight of renewal it was meant to carry.
“Gula Matari,” too, despite challenging partnering, offered mostly jazz flash.
The Jubilation! Dance Company performs Friday at 8 p.m. in the McKinney Theatre at Saddleback College, Mission Viejo. Tickets: $11 to $13. Information: (714) 582-4656.