Two male bodies of contrasting size cut through space with spare, calligraphic precision in "Forsythia." This elegant piece by Bill T. Jones received its West Coast premiere Sunday night, on the concluding program of Black Choreographers Moving Toward the 21st Century, at Wadsworth Theatre, UCLA.
A voice-over by Jones' late partner, Arnie Zane, recounts a trio of anxiety dreams involving intrusive housemates, a young workman who has an accident while Zane watches but doesn't help, and an out-of-control student protest.
Jones' hefty physique--weighted through the torso, with fly-away arms that make delicate gestures--is an apt foil for short, compact Arthur Aviles, whose legs propel him effortlessly into sharp little upright jumps and trots. Jones is often canted forward, leaning on Aviles as if to lessen the threat of gravity.
In one sequence, Aviles nimbly skedaddles around Jones, tags him and delightedly snaps his fingers as if he has proven a point. At other moments both dancers balance sidewise on the floor, using only one elbow and knee apiece. They speak with mitten-like hands and childlike wiggling fingers, nod in agreement, lushly swivel their hips, and use the sound of expelling breath as musical punctuation.
It is hard not to see these brief moments as wistful tributes to Zane. A plaintive song by 15th-Century composer Guillaume Dufay underlines the theme of parting and loss.