- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 22, 2007

This city is witnessing a shift from the Kennedy Center as the undisputed center of its artistic life in dance to a veritable aurora borealis of highly original dancers and choreographers showing up in more adventurous spaces.

Partly this is because the Kennedy Center has succumbed to the fill-the-seats lure of presenting leading international ballet companies in war-horse repertoire — “Swan Lake,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “La Bayadere” — instead of adventurous new works these companies also perform.

On a much smaller scale, however, the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage continues to affirm the range and originality of dance. Consider two free performances next month: the mesmerizing and rarely seen Gagaku court dancers from Japan’s Imperial Palace (the inspiration for George Balanchine’s exotic “Bugaku,” to be performed in November by the Suzanne Farrell Ballet) appear Oct. 7.

In contrast to these ancient roots, the newest meteor to streak across the scene, Kyra Green, brings her originality to the Millennium Stage Oct. 16. A young dancer-choreographer and recent Juilliard School graduate, she has made a stunning impression dancing in her own work at CityDance.

A series of new, mostly intimate theaters — the Atlas, the Arc, the Greenburgh, the Harman — have given the city an added edge. And two universities, George Mason and Maryland, are adding significantly to the zest of dance here.

Maryland began its season with a dramatic punch Thursday evening, presenting Margaret Jenkins’ “A Slipping Glimpse.” Performed to live music by the Paul Dresher ensemble (playing loud) and danced by her West Coast company as well as four dancers from the Tanusree Shankar Dance Company of Kolkata, India, it will have a final performance this afternoon.

The magical quality of the performance began with a prelude held behind the university’s Clarice Smith Center for the Performing Arts: On a rolling greensward framed by trees at the top of the knoll, a swirl of birds in flight and a deep blue sky laced with tufts of white clouds, the dancers entered, clad in neutral colors that gave them the look of tiny mythic creatures splashed across the landscape, while the sunset sky deepened as they performed their slow rituals.

Then it was back to reality, walking into the building and finding a seat in what essentially was constructed to be a theater in the round. The company — both Americans and Indians — are highly skilled, although obviously not skilled in the same way.

High energy flowed through the group, using a lot of contact improv — one body propelled by the thrust of another. Even against this quite American way of moving, the presence and style of the Indian dancers was central to the work. At first, the four were part of the group. Then they coalesced in the center and seemed like creatures suddenly set free; their smiles brightened, their fingers made delicious flutters, their hands curved backward in exotic shapes.

As the dance progressed, the mood became more intense, both in the physical daring of all the dancers and the emotional tension of their interplay. A strange thing happened: Two couples were locked in hostile battles, each one of the twosome trying for dominance, while a third couple wrestled with forbidden love. Then came two Indian couples, radiant and joyful in their interactions.

None of this was made explicit; other spectators undoubtedly interpreted it differently. But a work that plumbs feelings deeply and presents them through the gleaming prism of the human body is cause for celebration. “A Slipping Glimpse” achieves that.

***

WHAT: Margaret Jenkins Dance Company in “A Slipping Glimpse”

WHEN: Today at 3 p.m.

WHERE: Inside and outside the Kay Theatre in the Clarice Smith Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Maryland

TICKETS: $35 general, $7 students

PHONE: 301/405-2787 MAXIMUM RATING FOUR STARS

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