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Dance | REVIEW

Performers shine in dull works

Two lackluster new pieces hamper efforts of the Raiford Rogers Modern Ballet.

June 06, 2005|Victoria Looseleaf | Special to The Times

There was certainly lots to look at Saturday night when the 12 hard-working dancers of Raiford Rogers Modern Ballet exuberantly filled the stage of the Luckman Theatre at Cal State L.A. But sometimes more minimalism is less, however beautifully executed.

Indeed, the three-part program, which began with Rogers' signature work, 1985's "Wishes and Turns" (revised last year), set a high standard, both choreographically and technically.

With its perfect blend of music (Martinu's Piano Quartet No. 1) and mood, Rogers put his dancers through rigorous paces: lots of leaping entrances and exits; muscular partnering and luxuriously dexterous balancing, especially as performed by Lisa Gillespie.

Rogers' two other pieces Saturday -- the premieres of "Prelude" and "Concertante" -- are cut from the same neo-balletic cloth.

But the moves -- strange alterations of classical fare -- are now too familiar: backward slantings, forward-falling plies and rising and collapsing gambits.

Rogers only approaches the edge with his dancers, never venturing further.

Where are same-sex partnering, more daring lifts, or an element of surprise when you need them?

The spare 10-minute "Prelude," a series of duets set to Corelli, was like an aperitif, with Anna Wyckoff's lime-colored skirted leotards for the women and dance briefs for the bare-chested men tasteful and sexy. Jamie Dee and Reid Bartelme had a courtly air; Bobby Briscoe brandished Tekla Kostek overhead in a Zen-like entrance, bringing heat to high kicks; and Veronica Caudillo and Seth Belliston were amiable in adagio mode, the entire sextet offering sculptural poses and the promise of love in an otherwise immutable landscape.

At 20 minutes, though, "Concertante" proved an exercise in stamina, with the company, clad in Wyckoff's less pleasing brown unitards, offering more of the same combinations, this time accompanied by Frank Martin's 1944 "Petite Symphonie Concertante."

Punctuated with duos, trios and unisons galore, the work, zealously performed, occasionally approached sappiness with intense arabesques and yogic lunging set to harp glissandi, although an overall aloofness, as if the dancers occupied private territories, left this viewer, if not the performers, numb.

Monique L'Heureux's fine lighting added both warmth and coolness to an evening that otherwise shone intermittently.

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