Mugging their way through a lightweight, largely familiar four-part program at Los Angeles Theatre Center on Sunday, the 10 hard-working dancers of Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Theatre seemed equally unprepared for credible character projection (required by Lula Washington's "Blues Portraits") and for flashy technical display.
Washington's jazz-modern choreography continually exposed their technical limitations--especially with frequent slow turns into extension that virtually nobody could execute steadily. And even when reenacting something close to their own experience--in Washington's "Cross the Line"--they brought no emotional conviction to their performances, merely a relentlessly bright, callow vigor.
Indeed, the company looked like a unified ensemble only at the end of the evening in Jho Jenkins' "Wauyacanjanga Suite," which adroitly exploited social dance idioms and a strong communal pulse. And here an audience that had previously ventured only polite applause at last found a pretext for enthusiasm.
Curious, since Washington's new "Sample Suite" seemed almost desperate to sell out--and for small change, at that. Set to bouncy music by Joe Sample, it began with one of those cutesie ballet-versus-street-dance challenge duets familiar from Dance Theatre of Harlem's "Forces of Rhythm," Alvin Ailey's "Pas de Duke" and the recent movie "White Nights."