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DANCE REVIEWS : Movement Takes Back Seat to Theater at Highways

August 12, 1995|CHRIS PASLES

In almost all the works choreographed by Samuel Donlavy and danced by him and his company Thursday at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, a dominant impression nagged. Theatrical concept seemed to come first and movement second.

It almost never worked the other way round. Movement did not generate concept. It didn't amplify it or allow alternative or unpredictable interpretation. It never developed its own logic. Sometimes it even diminished the idea.

All this was no more or less true in five new works than in two older pieces. The concepts were often sympathetic ones and presented with sweet sincerity, commitment and varying skill, so they read clearly. Unfortunately, they were grasped pretty much completely before the pieces ended. Sometimes long before.

"Papa" showed Gioi Tran struggling against impulses to hang himself. "Cloudy This Morning" continued the theme of guilt and self-hatred, this time through attraction between two women (Cynthia Monique and Jennifer Sforza). It was the only Donlavy dance to present women sympathetically.

"Pillow Fight," a duet for Tran and the choreographer, added comedy to the palette. "In My Jock" added S&M rituals (Rick Sachwitz spewing beer over Donlavy's body) within a framework of FBI-type surveillance. It looked closer to porno than to social protest. "Chained Together" made Damon L. White, Sforza, Sachwitz and Tiza Wynn flail about without much focus. Donlavy could use a good editor.

One of the older works, "Stained Glass," had been advertised using a photo of two naked men embracing. The picture caused some of the religious right to go ballistic, but at least in terms of this shortened version, it proved to have been more a publicity stunt than an actual representation of the piece.

* The Donlavy Dance company will repeat the program tonight at 10:30 at Highways, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica. $10. (213) 660-8587.

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