Guest Artists Can't Spark Aman Comeback

So many cultures, so little differentiation. At least that is what Aman Folk Ensemble's return to the concert stage, after a two-year hiatus, felt like Sunday at the Charles E. Probst Center for the Performing Arts in Thousand Oaks.

Aman's 15-part program of mostly musty works, suffered from poor lighting, relentlessly similar choreography--no matter the costumes or accessories--and more ebb than flow: Musical interludes interrupted as much as entertained between dances. Guest artists perked up the proceedings, however.

Providing full-tilt steam were choreographer-dancers Francisco Vazquez and Monica Gonzalez in "Salsa." Vazquez, a rhythm demon, partnered Gonzalez with sizzling precision. Moving east, Shyamala Moorty, new to Aman, performed "Bharata Natyam Dance" with filigreed fingers and graceful gestures, guest-choreographed by Malathi Iyengar, who lent fine vocals as well.

Also new: "Russian Spoon Dance," wherein Youri Nelzine and Loutchi Tchoukhi performed barrel kicks and ankle spins to their own clanging-spoon accompaniment. Istvan Szabo's "Hungarian Dances," however, revealed nothing novel, save the embroidered petticoat dresses, worn by a quartet of women balancing cruets on their heads.

Traveling from Hungary to South Africa, "Gumboot Dance" proved a rudimentary exercise in feet, leg, thigh and arm-slapping. Choreographed by David Mabowe, with guest dancers, Shaluza, this miner's number was embarrassing.

Rosina Didyk's premiere, "Dances of Rhythm," featured a blend of Irish step dancing, tapping and clogging in a rousing but uninspired finale, in which guest tapper Gary Larsen's sure-footed pyrotechnics helped raise the choreographic ante. Aman's comeback, in striving for more multiethnicity, is too much, too thin.

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