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Dance Review

Bre's 'X-posed': Too Much of a Good Thing

May 31, 1999|LEWIS SEGAL | TIMES DANCE CRITIC

Artistic director Clifford Breland, associate Denise Ji-Ahnte, special projects head Pamela Lydon Heard and their colleagues have many reasons to be proud of the nine-dancer contemporary ensemble they've built over the last eight years in Riverside: Bre Dance Theatre.

Certainly the dancers' uniform stamina, expressive commitment, technical skill and stylistic versatility in Bre's six-part program at the Japan America Theatre on Friday could have been no accident and should not be underestimated in explaining the response of their small but enthusiastic audience. Most remarkably of all, the dancers earned that response with virtually no real choreography--merely carloads of undeveloped thematic concepts, showpiece stunts and staging ploys dumped onto the stage.

Bre's prevailing method is to display each dancer's best move at every opportunity, whatever the context. So over the evening Michael Hayes did his high-jump-with-splits relentlessly--long after his pants tore at the crotch--while others repeated their specialty barrel turns and similar feats until they became equally numbing.

Only the dynamic Danielle Hobbs emerged from all this overkill looking like she had more to give than what we'd seen and only Breland's moody new woman's trio, "Cry of the City," and his gutsy "Four Women" (from "Exodus") dared to work in a single style and keep a premise in focus from beginning to end.

Obviously, people new to concert dance will be easily hooked on pieces that ricochet from African movement to ballet steps to gymnastics to modern dance and back--especially when executed with maximum athleticism in minimum clothing. But local audiences have seen Ailey and Philadanco and Cleo Parker Robinson recently enough to know that it's possible to blitz the audience without throwing the dancers to the wolves. Bre titled its program "X-Posed"; others might prefer "X-Cessive," "X-Ploitive" or "X-Cruciating."

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