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DANCE REVIEW

Disarming Program by Between Lines Troupe

March 15, 1997|LEWIS SEGAL | TIMES DANCE CRITIC

From the decorative branches hung with crystal droplets that you notice overhead as you enter the theater to the spoken benediction offered at the end of the evening, Winifred R. Harris' program of brief, small-scale pieces seems a celebration intended for the closest of friends rather than a formal dance concert aimed at strangers.

Harris is a locally based choreographer known for intense societal abstractions and engulfing, high-risk technique: swirling turns that surge into sudden, exposed balances in extension, for instance. But at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, she gives herself and the six other women of her Between Lines company disarming personal challenges: 10 explorations of mood and sensibility.

Of the newest pieces, the solos "Sonnets #1 and #2" layer intimate gestural detail and bold dance expression with special sensitivity and make both Cari Riis and Kendra McCool into lyrical paragons.

"Unopened Love Letters" finds Harris torn between musical extremes--high-pressure classicism by Prokofiev versus genial pop by Marvin Gaye. At the end, as Gaye sings "It's too late," she looks beaten down by her attempt to dance on both sides of the cultural schism. With great simplicity, the solo provides a forceful, intuitive look at issues relevant to all contemporary artists alienated from the mainstream.

Less satisfying: "Excuse Me, I've Been Interrupted," which propels Karah Abiog and McCool into striking, sharp-edged confrontations before losing its focus in its final section. "Behind My Back and in Front of My Face" also proves disappointing at the end, fading away before Abiog can fully investigate the turbulent motifs and impassioned Gorecki music of the solo.

Happily, Abiog, Riis and Wendy Samuels give a complex, propulsive new showpiece, "My Roses Won't Open," maximum sweetness and clarity. Kim Clark and Pilein Wang danced in older pieces on Thursday. All music was on tape.

* Winifred R. Harris and company appear tonight at 8:30, and Sunday, 7:30 p.m., Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica. $15. (213) 660-8587.

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