A program titled “Weeping Women in Dance” brought to the L.A. County Museum of Art on Thursday a selection of near-legendary modern dance solos matching the premise of the museum’s current “Picasso and the Weeping Women” exhibition.
Depicting suffering, rage and resilience, these solos offered the newly reconstituted Los Angeles Dance Theatre an opportunity to show the stylistic range of early modern dance--and what the idiom can uniquely accomplish.
The focus on intensity of expression and innovative movement design reached maximum purity in Martha Graham’s “Lamentation” (1930), though the performance by Janet Eilber subordinated emotional values to sculptural spectacle. Eilber looked far more involved in Graham’s “Deep Song” (1937), another bench solo full of startling redefinitions of space and feeling.
Danced fervently by Michele Simmons, “Strange Fruit” (1943) showed choreographer Pearl Primus many decades ahead of her time in linking a spoken text and a gestural, non-dance vocabulary to a social theme: murderous racism.
The two least celebrated choreographers Thursday received performances of great immediacy and detail from company founder Bonnie Oda Homsey. Indeed the pride, defiance and nobility of Jane Dudley’s “Cante Flamenco” (1944) seemed defined by a different body--taller, rounder, more classically proportioned--than the tiny, shrunken figure stamping and flailing so hopelessly in Eleanor King’s “Road to Hell: Wrath” (1941).
Risa Steinberg connected more with the heroic rebellion in Isadora Duncan’s “Dance of the Furies” (c. 1907) than with the solo’s demonic anger, which appeared conventionalized here. Later on, she found all the dignity and pliancy of Anna Sokolow’s “Kaddish” (1948)--but projected them at a very small scale.
Lending their talents to this special event, guitarist Allen Krantz contributed a sensitive interpretation of Antonio Jose’s “Pavana Triste” and actor Ron Glass read the Lewis Allan poem accompanying the Primus solo.
* L.A. Dance Theatre’s “Weeping Women in Dance” repeats at the Bing Theater, L.A. County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., today at 3 p.m. Tickets: $15-$18. Call (213) 857-6010.