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DANCE REVIEWS : Lewitzky's Work Still the Centerpiece

October 03, 1994|CHRIS PASLES

There was a hint of a sea-change ahead when the Lewitzky Dance Company offered two works by younger choreographers on Friday in the Keck Theater at Occidental College in Eagle Rock.

Bella Lewitzky is now 78 and has been laboring in the bitterly unrewarding vineyard of Los Angeles dance since 1966 (with the formation of her own company) and since 1946 (when she first began dancing and co-founded the Dance Theater of Los Angeles). Even her most demanding supporters must acknowledge that burdens should be lifted from her, although her creativity, much as Martha Graham's, ought to continue for years.

The truth is, the most powerful work on the program was hers.

Nora Daniel, 38, Lewitzky's daughter, opened the evening with the West Coast premiere of her "Sextet." Susan Rose, a member of the dance faculty at UC Riverside who has created several works for the company, closed it with the first performance of "Tail Tale Signs."

"Sextet" is a pressureless work in which movement impulses are skillfully and not obviously shared, transmitted and reshaped among the dancers.

It deals with Lewitzkian sculptural concerns but without her visceral impact. It was danced airily by Roger Gonzalez Hibner, Walter Kennedy, Nancy Lanier, Diana MacNeil, Diana Vivona and Karen Woo. David Stanton Bryant wrote the brightly percussive score.

Rose's "Tail Tale Signs," a five-part company piece, wittily plays with the conventions mostly of the tango to create a work with irresistible popular appeal. Macho stances, unpredictable and shifting partnerings, a Tharpian interest in movement complexity and distribution across space ensured continual visual interest. Evan Lurie wrote the seductively appealing cabaret dance music.

Lewitzky provided the heavyweight center of the program with her fierce-informed 1982 "Confines," an ensemble piece that decries women's and men's entrapment by the environment and, worse, by roles imposed by society.

The three-part work moved from the Edenic opening with MacNeil and Kennedy enwrapped (trapped, too?) in each other to final images of the whole company entrapped in Donald Knaack's ominous, combat-training frame structure. Knaack and Robert Morin produced the sound score.

If much of the protest against women as music-box and fashion industry ornaments and men as cannon, factory and sports fodder has been absorbed into contemporary consciousness, the dance is only a reminder of how early Lewitzky was working with these ideas before the rest of us.

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