At its local premiere Saturday afternoon in the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, Elisa Monte's "Mnemonic Verses" looked exactly like one of those archaic/rhapsodic I-Remember-Sex pieces that Martha Graham created during the decade (1974-83) when Monte danced in the Graham company.
Choreographed last year for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, it required Ailey veteran Sarita Allen feverishly to paw at the bare-chested Don Bellamy and then faint dead-away when he responded with passionate gymnastic lifts and other displays of primal masculinity.
An eight-member backup group reinforced the soft-core sensuality while the music by John Hassell and costumes by Barbara Forbes evoked an exotic environment situated somewhere between ancient Assyria and early Barbara Cartland.
Western theater-dance has always retailed heavy-breathing hokum of this sort and the muscular Bellamy has seldom been fully clothed during this extended Ailey company visit to the Southland. Indeed, he turned up again Saturday afternoon in a similar assignment: the romantic "Lake" duet (opposite Elizabeth Roxas) in Ailey's "The River."
Choreographed 25 years ago for American Ballet Theatre, this eight-part suite boasts a symphonic Duke Ellington score and a skillful layering of modern dance, jazz and ballet vocabularies. Unfortunately, the Ailey company has taken the women's choreography off pointe, offering only a barefoot, half-toe approximation of the pure classicism that Ailey intended.
However, the best dancers in the cast found ways to make the ballet their own on Saturday by heightening its modernisms, taking its technical opportunities to the limit and blazing with inimitable Ailey attitude. "The Winter in Lisbon" (previously reviewed) completed the program.