To a fervent gospel recording by the Rev. James Cleveland and the Charles Fold Singers, a black, bare-chested male in pleated white culottes kicks high, reaches wide, rolls his hips, walks on his knees, flings his voluminous garment up over one shoulder like a toga and reels back from passages of flailing intensity into poses of soulful pride.
No, the Alvin Ailey company isn't back in town. This is "Touch Me," the 1977 solo that Gerald Arpino created for Christian Holder and revived this Joffrey Ballet season for Edward Morgan.
It graced an otherwise familiar program Wednesday in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and showed Morgan to be a dancer of great power and versatility. It also displayed Arpino's fluency in a modern-dance vocabulary that had nothing in common with his usual lyric/virtuosic classicism.
You could argue, of course, that Arpino was merely working in Ailey's shadow here. However, the results had greater integrity and relevance to the accompaniment than what Peter Martins and New York City Ballet inflicted on the music of Ray Charles in "A Fool for You" (telecast a week ago on PBS). And Morgan's performance gave the borrowed dance-rhetoric superb immediacy.
In George Balanchine's "Cotillon," Deborah Dawn danced stylishly as the Mistress of Ceremonies. However, Julie Janus and Peter Narbutas looked none too secure in the severely conventionalized mime and rapid, intricate cycles of supported turns of the "Hand of Fate" pas de deux.
Completing the program: Arpino's "Round of Angels" and "Light Rain," which were both substituted for other Arpino ballets that could not be performed due to dancer injuries.