Choreographer Donald Byrd answered the negative criticism he received recently in the New York press by presenting the half-exhilarating, half-flat artistic manifesto "A Formal Response" on the "Explorations III" series Wednesday at the Japan America Theatre.
The work that inspired the criticism, " . . . Concerning Vices, Circumstances, and Situations," has not been performed locally. Yet neither seeing it nor reading the negative press were required to determine that Byrd can combine exciting individual vision with craft. (Snippets from the reviews, however, were used satirically in A. Star Reese's accompanying videotape.)
Danced fluidly by his six-member company the Group, "A Formal Response" focused on two different reactions to criticism in two parts of roughly equal length. The first section, set to five songs by Prince, was extroverted in nature, with Byrd and dancers Jeni Breen, Howard Fireheart, Maud Karlsson, Daniel Peters and Pier Voulkos in upbeat, witty, Tharp-like movements--punctuated by recurring close-ups on videotape of Byrd's pained face. It was a triumph of creative overflow with no trace of resentment.
The second part, set to Carman Moore's moody score, however, drastically changed character, slowly and formlessly exploring group relationships presumably after outside attack. Gestures of reaching out focused emphasis on rejection--and final support. But while the ending stressed group trust and solidarity, it also seemed a distanced, overly insular and sadly uninvolving solution.