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Kaleidoscope Stretches 'California Masters'

Weekend Reviews | Dance Review

July 20, 1998|LEWIS SEGAL | TIMES DANCE CRITIC

From its opening season at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre in 1979 through the past 10 years at Cal State L.A., the annual Dance Kaleidoscope series has remained so intent on encouraging any hint of local achievement that its programs have often represented a curatorial vacuum. No standards, no focus, merely a celebratory inclusiveness at all costs.

This tradition continued on Friday with an opening program at the Luckman Theatre supposedly devoted to California dance pioneers but sporting, as usual, some misguided choices. Alvin Ailey may have started his dancing career here, but he choreographed so far from local stages that it's ridiculous to label him a "California Master" and present an excerpt from his "Revelations" (1960). If Ailey qualifies, why not Twyla Tharp, who took her first tap lessons locally at age 4?

Similarly, passages from Eugene Loring's "Billy the Kid" (1938) have no place on such a program, for Loring began making his important contributions to Southland dance education a decade after that ballet's creation, when he moved West to work in films. Antony Tudor also taught here after choreographing his masterworks--why not dub him a "California Master"?

Four months ago, the locally based American Repertory Dance Company offered a far more pertinent survey of early California choreographers at UCLA--and Dance Kaleidoscope borrowed three of its selections: Carmelita Maracci's moody ballet solo "Evocation" (1952), danced by Victoria Koenig; Ruth St. Denis' solo India fantasy "Kashmiri Nautch" (1919), danced by Bonnie Oda Homsey; Lester Horton's powerful modern dance duet "To Jose Clemente Orozco" (1953), with Homsey and John Pennington.

Besides these previously reviewed pieces, the finest moments of the Kaleidoscope history lesson came in reconstructions of Gloria Newman's large-scale abstraction "Orbits" (1969) and Horton's dramatic duet "The Beloved" (1948). Mounted by JoeElla Lewis and Art Mikealian, "Orbits" confirmed Newman's remarkable ability to intuitively mix an airy formalism with a deep sense of mystery. Staged by Bella Lewitzky, "The Beloved" found Pennington and Diana MacNeil fabulously forceful (him) and pliant (her) in a depiction of domestic violence--though the text passages early on needed stronger delivery.

Just as he had in performances with the Ailey company four months ago at the Pavilion, Matthew Rushing brought enormous flair to the "Sinner Man" showpiece from "Revelations," performed this time in its original solo version. In addition, several distinguished members of the local flamenco community lent their artistry to a gracious performance of Lola Montes' symphonic septet "La Boda de Luis Alonso" (1977).

Staged by Don Bradburn and executed by attractive young dancers-in-training, the "Billy the Kid" excerpts made little effect. Similarly cast, Bradburn's reconstruction of a glamorous Loring pas de deux from the film musical "Deep in My Heart" (1954) was presented with no suggestion of the sets, costumes and vocal that gave the original duet its geographical and emotional context. If Cyd Charisse and James Mitchell proved icons of desire 44 years ago, their Kaleidoscope counterparts seemed merely clueless babes.

Perhaps in atonement, the Board of the Dance Resource Center gave Charisse a special Lester Horton Dance Award on Friday, an award not listed in these pages Saturday in the otherwise complete rundown of the winners.

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