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Dance Review : The Different Steps In 'Sole Music'

August 20, 1986|LEWIS SEGAL | Times Dance Writer

American Tap, Spanish flamenco and Indian kathak focus more intently on percussive step-rhythms than any other dance forms and they also share non-theatrical origins plus an emphasis on improvisational interplay between dancer and musician.

By juxtaposing these forms, the stimulating "Sole Music" program, Monday in Theatre 2 of the Los Angeles Theatre Center, inevitably highlighted the points in common and made the inevitable anomalies seem pointless.

Thus, Chitresh Das' explication of kathak onomatopoeia--volleys of barefoot steps reproducing the sound of cannon shots, galloping horses and a railway journey--obviously belonged to the evening's implied agenda. And thus flamenco artist Oscar Nieto's softly crooned, loudly amplified ballad, "Me Va," appeared an irrelevance.

Indeed, it took Nieto and his partner, Ambar Gonzalez, a long time to work up to any sustained heelwork, and these glum, dutiful passages scarcely suggested the relationship between technique and emotion in flamenco dancing. Cantaor Chinin de Triana and guitarist Victor Kolstee offered expert accompaniment but only occasionally did the music and movement fuel one another.

Though he offered more of a lecture-demonstration than a performance, Das brought enormous charm to his lessons in kathak rhythms and dramaturgy. As always, his whiplash turns (27 here, 81 there) had a commanding sharpness as well as speed, and his final collaboration with tabla virtuoso Pranesh Khan displayed the easy brilliance of two supremely confident masters.

Early in the tap segment, Alfred Desio and Damon Winmon danced through a jazzy, complex, unaccompanied routine that defined tap musicality far more persuasively than anything that followed. Certainly Desio's celebrated technological wizardry (microphones attached to taps that are wired to transmitters that broadcast to receivers and then to effects modules, etc.) yielded tepid dancing, whatever the startling sonic modifications.

The context of the evening gave those modifications, and Desio's rambling explanations of them, special interest, but who can deny that all his expensive hardware left this "Electric Tap Dancer" more limited in his rhythmic options and ultimately more predictable than the footloose Das and Nieto?

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