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O.C. DANCE REVIEW : A Cultural Gift at Irvine Barclay : The terrific performance by American Indian Dance Theatre shows both its contemporary and ceremonial sides.

February 13, 1993|CHRIS PASLES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

IRVINE — The American Indian Dance Theatre looked sensational when it introduced two new works on an otherwise familiar program Thursday at the Irvine Barclay Theatre.

In the new Eastern Woodlands Suite, a group of young men good-naturedly wooed women though competitive solos that grew increasingly daring, humorous and even up-to-date, with Lloyd Yellowbird galvanizing the audience with Michael Jackson moonwalk steps and arm-in-the-air poses.

The suite shifted fluidly between dance sequences that allowed and accented individuality and those that brought the individual back into the group. It included everyday activity, such as mere walking, and it did not aim for relentless, piled-up effects.

In these ways, the work exemplified the company's philosophy and reason for existence--the presentation of tribal material as authentically as possible within a theatrical context. Audiences looking for revue-type dancing must seek elsewhere.

Representing the ceremonial side of the repertory was the new Hamatsa dance sequence of the Kwakiutl tribe of British Columbia. This completed a Northwest Coast Suite introduced in 1991. Here, several men wore huge, richly colored and stunningly carved bird masks, with large movable mouths.

The masks signified scary supernatural spirits, and the dances, which imitated bird movements and included a kind of mad scene, depicted their domestication.

After a year's absence to attend school, Eddie Swimmer has returned to the company, in a terrific, seamlessly sequenced hoop solo. At the end, he gave each dancer a hoop as they formed a giant, communal circle--a metaphor for the inclusive vision of company founders Hanay Geiogamah and Barbara Schwei.

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