- The Washington Times - Monday, June 18, 2007

Since its founding in 1996, CityDance Ensemble has occupied a unique spot on the Washington performing arts scene. Most modern dance companies are formed around a single choreographer — Martha Graham, Paul Taylor, Mark Morris — but CityDance has always performed a wide-ranging, eclectic repertoire.

Three years ago, in the equivalent of winning the sweepstakes, CityDance was appointed resident company of the newly built Strathmore Center for the Arts in north Bethesda and found itself the owner of three large, state-of-the-art studios providing not only rehearsal space but a golden opportunity to expand educational outreach programs. The company kept a lower profile as it built up its school programs.

On Friday evening it came roaring back in Strathmore’s spacious hall. A welcome black box theater has been nestled into a stage space that had been too large and undefined for dance. Hurray for that.

What CityDance unveiled was almost a brand new company. Director Paul Gordon Emerson and a few holdover dancers remained on hand but the previous artistic staff is gone. The turnover gives the impression of a somewhat ad hoc venture, almost a new company.

This new CityDance Ensemble is impressive. Its greatest strength is new dancers Kyra Jean Green and Jerome Johnson; a fairly recent arrival, Bruno Augusto; and two regulars, Eileen Beth Mitchell and Alice Wylie. Unfortunately Miss Green is leaving this fall.

The program started slowly with Susan Shields’ “White,” which had the look of a charm number with uninteresting, seemingly endless movement.

Things picked up with “Bubbles,” an arresting work Miss Green choreographed while a student at Juilliard (together with Idan Sharabi, uncredited on the program). She is a fascinating mover and was well-matched with Mr. Johnson, a vivid, elegant performer.

Meisha Bosma’s “Souvenirs” made angst and neurosis look interesting; Harumi Terayama’s “Contained Infinity” had an air of mysterious importance sustained by Marija Djordjevic’s interesting costumes; a 1996 work, “Endless Cycle,” by CityDance founder Tara Pierson Dunning still looked fresh with its pro-feminist message as Miss Mitchell and Miss Wylie partnered each other in strong and sculptural lifts.

“Dust Bowl Ballads,” created by the pioneering modern dancer Sophie Maslow in 1941, added raw honesty and considerable charm to a look at America’s past. Its two solos were danced by Miss Mitchell and Miss Green.

The program came to a stirring conclusion with “Han,” which brought the great pleasure of live music to the strongest work Mr. Emerson has created. The four musicians added visually and rhythmically to Mr. Emerson’s strong and thoughtful, athletically demanding choreography, which the company performed to the hilt.



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