CARLSBAD — The mavericks of modern dance are so concerned with the challenge of new frontiers, they rarely stop to reflect on the historic achievements that shaped their art.
However, the dancers of San Diego Dance Theater have begun to turn their attention to the rich legacy of their past. And Thursday, when the troupe dances a one-night stand at the Carlsbad Community Cultural Arts Center, the program will be dominated by two classics--Charles Weidman's "Lynchtown" and Doris Humphrey's "Shakers."
Company director Carl Yamamoto, a choreographer with a strong track record, chose to revive these old treasures "because so much has been forgotten about modern dance and the way it came about," he explained.
"Modern dance was a rebellion against classical ballet--in terms of its premises and its movements. Modern dance is more earthy, and I've always been interested in how things evolved in modern dance," said Yamamoto.
"Modern dancers are going back to ballet (in their concern for technical excellence)," he said, "and there's value to that. But something has been lost--the feeling and the intent is gone. And without the emotional fervor, modern dance is just movement."
In "Shakers," a frenzy of agitated movement that had its genesis in the fanaticism of the Shaker religious sect, Yamamoto's dancers will be worlds apart from the quiet and controlled beauty of ballet. The accent will be on the emotional turmoil that drives the dancers through the dizzying pace of their gyrations.
Emotions run high in "Lynchtown" as well. This masterpiece, staged by local dancer/choreographer George Willis (who danced with Weidman's company during the late 1950s), made its San Diego debut last year. But this disturbing study of mob psychology is well worth another look.
Two works by Yamamoto will be included in the company's Carlsbad debut. Yamamoto, who insists he's trying to "get myself out of performing," will dance in his revival of "And Other Maladies," a group piece that chronicles the pitfalls of a dancer's life. Yamamoto is working on a new dance for this program, one that reflects his recent brush with death (from an allergic reaction).
"It's called 'Brain Dead,' " said Yamamoto, "but it's not meant in the literal sense. The dance is about choices--the pragmatic and practical side, and the creative side. The dance will have two endings."
Original music and costumes hand-painted with an airbrush will lend an air of theatricality to Yamamoto's latest creation.
Willis will lighten things up a little with a witty spoof he calls "Money."
Most of the pieces were featured at a recent program at the Educational Cultural Complex in Southeast San Diego, a two-performance concert Yamamoto considers "a dress rehearsal" for Carlsbad. Since then, there have been some personnel changes at the San Diego Dance Theater, and, according to Yamamoto, "this will be the strongest cast we've ever had."