On a list of dance territories worth revisiting, the recent experiments of the Jazz Tap Ensemble’s Lynn Dally and a handful of border-crossing virtuosos have to be included. Her genre-mixing “Solea,” first seen at Highways a few years ago, was bracing again in “Dancing Blues,” Dally’s hourlong entry in the C.O.L.A. series (showcasing work supported by City of Los Angeles grants) Saturday night at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. It was “we are the world” ambitious, using lifetimes of study and individual dynamism to create meaningful and entertaining dance.
Three of the four movement mavens in “Solea” appeared to advantage earlier in the program, as well. To a scratchy Robert Johnson recording of “Come on in My Kitchen,” Liliana de Leon poured her flamenco lamenting into another variety of blues, ending with a wonderfully urgent crossing of the stage as each hand took turns grabbing at something unseen.
John Pennington, usually barefoot for his classically modulated Modernism, donned shoes for “Walkin’ Blues.” With his upper body leading the rest in a kind of graceful lurching and heartfelt toe-dragging, the piece brought to mind one of Fred Astaire’s elegant “drunk” dances, often used as a lament for lost love. Except that Pennington wore a rough shirt and suspenders and added stomps and wavering “Elvis” knees.
Improvising a solo, “Get Away Jordan, Take Six,” tapper Channing Cook Holmes looked so cool you could feel the breeze. In suit and fedora, he alternated a close-to-the-body smoothness with sudden stabs of footwork and well-oiled swivels that stopped whenever he wanted them to. Alongside the other tappers in group dances, Holmes had the most varied persona, not falling into Dally’s style: the straight-up grin and decorative arms that float jazzily at each side.
Charon Aldredge and Melinda Sullivan joined Holmes for “Misterioso,” showing off Dally’s skill at tap dance design. Aldredge produced dense, fluttery sounds in her improvised solo, “Crossfade,” while Sullivan, with Namita Kapoor, looked terrific combining tap and ballet lines in “Bach Suite.” De Leon seemed most challenged here, as if Bach were trying to straight-jacket flamenco, and she couldn’t loosen him up.
Jerry Kalaf’s recorded score for “Solea,” in which bharata natyam dancer Mythili Prakash also sparkled, provided lots of scope for cross-culture encounters. Like all sharply aware, fully embodied people, the dancers made you think new thoughts and wonder if there wasn’t a way to revisit this optimistic, highly charged version of cultural interaction more often.