Dance Reviews : Old Art Form Meets Modern Culture at UCLA

Jose Limon's) 1958 "Missa Brevis," a period work that typically defines the noble human spirit rising from the depths of universal Angst, came last.

But when the Royce Hall curtain rang down Friday on the annual UCLA Dance Company performance--celebrating 25 years of such events--there was a joltingly anachronistic response from the largely student audience: loud dog yelps of approval.

How curiously out of sync they were with the stage symbols, early modern-dance of piety and seriousness. But seeing an old art form intersect with the cries of contemporary culture wasn't the only beguiling dividend of historic contrast.

The quintet from Murray Louis' "Ceremonies and Dark Places," an ad hoc commission that came out of the choreographer's UCLA residency this quarter, also revealed something about today's sensibility as juxtaposed with that of the past.

With its prayerful motifs for five women dervishes, sleekly unitarded and wearing Turkish hats, the piece suggested both penance and power--as did Limon's. But the slant here was theatrical, rather than self-revelatory, as if to value the decorative over the soulful.

Equally identifiable to our time was faculty member Carol Scothorn's well-crafted "Brief Songs." A "Cats"-inspired trio that featured the excellent Qing Fang, it took proper cues from inspired Joan LaBarbara music, with the composer's own virtuosic sighs and whispers and assorted mystifications contributing the allure.

But nothing stood quite so far from modern dance beginnings as Danial Shapiro's and Joanie Smith's "Family," which keyed the semiotics of relationships to hilarious cartwheels and backbends.

While all else dealt in choreography made of movement recognizable as dance, this surreal acrobatic cartoon--apache numbers, etc. performed on a roving club chair a la Fred Astaire--leaped beyond the established format to forge elements of parody from real life with wondrous wit and imagination.

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