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Modern Dance In Little Tokyo

March 19, 1985|CHRIS PASLES

The first subscription dance series in the Japan America Theatre resumed Saturday with modern dance by two Asian-American choreographers: San Francisco-based June Watanabe and Heidi Ashley of Los Angeles.

Set to a tape collage combining Joan LaBarbara's chirpy vocalizing with hyped-up Bach, Watanabe's "Bird Run" traversed birdlike movement patterns fluidly, comically--and tiringly.

"E.O. 9066" (referring to the infamous order to relocate Japanese-Americans during World War II) succeeded as broad docudrama rather than as dance. The protest ideas were completely (and forcelessly) expressed long before Judy Rosenberg's commissioned score ended.

In "Glassworks," Watanabe treated the haunting, even monumental music of Philip Glass as an opportunity for romanticized personal angst and ecstatic leaping.

Ashley turned her previously reviewed "Red-Haired Ghost" into a triptych by setting two more poems by June Kino to minimalist movement: "Nawa" (danced steadily by Betsy Escandor), built on cliches about dependence, independence and a long rope; and "Yukikosan" (with an intense Hae Kyung Lee), only partly reflecting the story of an abused wife.

Also receiving first performances were Ashley's "White Fields"--lightweight abstractions of folk dances--and the loose improvisation, "Night Lyrice," danced skillfully by Watanabe and Escandor.

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