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Coleman Ensemble Joins The Chieftains At Ucla

February 18, 1986|JOHN VOLAND

Paddy Moloney, the irrepressible, penny-whistling leprechaun who leads the Irish folk group the Chieftains, is ever on the lookout for ways to diversify his band's natural ethnic base of operations.

In a performance Sunday night at Royce Hall in UCLA, he brought on L.A.-based choreographer/dancer Patricia Coleman and her ensemble for the premiere of "Ellis Landing," a briefish ballet named for the site of many Irish entries into America.

With Moloney and his mates providing quicksilver accompaniment, Coleman and company worked through semi-traditional steps and gestures that resembled a Saturday night reel-and-jig fest seen through a post-modern filter. While shreds and patches of square-dance, high-step and vigorous semaphore gestures informed the piece, the dancers wove a tale of departure from familiar faces and movements--through the isolation of unknown surroundings to an energetic finale celebrating the replanting of roots.

If we've seen much of the movement before, it certainly was refreshing to see Coleman and the Chieftains working with such obvious affection for each other. If we could get a more complete work, more thoroughly rehearsed and planned, Moloney and Coleman might just get the kind of diversification they're obviously looking for. The 12-minute "Ellis Landing" was just a hint of the fruits this collaboration might bear.

Elsewhere on the program, it was Celtic business as usual, with the six players weaving an emerald tapestry unlike any other. Past multi-ethnic efforts of the Chieftains dotted the current program: Taiwanese folk musician Chen-Shi Chuan sat in on a couple of numbers; an outstanding step dancer, Thomosina Flatley, wowed the audience with a jig and a hornpipe; and folk tunes from Galicia (in northern Spain) provided the occasional respite from the delicious Irish fare.

To state the obvious: There's still no Irish band quite like the Chieftains, God bless 'em.

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