1981 New York Times


By Jennifer Dunning

”I am an open book to my boss,” a dancer proclaimed about half way through Daniel Lewis’s new ”Open Book.” ”And a complete mystery to your friends,” another dancer said. Count this perplexed observer on the side of the angels. Odd dance succeeded odd dance on a program of five pieces choreographed by Mr. Lewis and performed by the Daniel Lewis Dance Repertory Company on Thursday at the Marymount Manhattan Theater. The one exception was ”Beethoven Trio,” a pretty, buoyant little opening dance. But the fact that the choreography was ”after Jose Limon” may explain its sensible, deliberately crafted look.

Mr. Lewis, a longtime member and assistant director of the Limon company, seems to have a hard time taking anything very seriously. He goes after the heroic pose in ”Open Book,” which is set to some rather grand music by Mahler, Wagner and Rossini. ”The graves of our children are the best places to hear pleas for mercy,” little Kat deBlois intones at the start of the piece. The spirits sink, but Mr. Lewis’s are rising. His six dancers wheel and trot and sidle about the stage, stopping and starting with as much abruptness and as little reason as the strange declamations they deliver from time to time. Miss deBlois bursts into tears occasionally. The dance mellows briefly in a duet for her and Jim May. And there are some very funny references in words and movement to high-art dance.

”And First They Slaughtered the Angels” is probably Mr. Lewis’s best-known bit of mystification. Thuggish bikers, fluttering angels and some types in sleek evening dress meet and part and meet again. But its undertone of violence gives ”Angels” a lunatic cohesiveness. Silver screen adagio dance and two mobile armchairs made ”No Strings” the most enjoyable oddity on the program. And ”There’s Nothing Here of Me but Me” provided a touching look behind the curtain at a performer haunted by the theater.

The company is a close-knit ensemble of skilled and very personable dancers, among them Antony Balcena, Randall Faxon Parker, Cliff Shulman and Jane Carrington-Lewis. The deft Mr. May is alone worth a trip to the theater, with his sensitive phrasing, lyrical arms and use of fluidly shifting lightness and weight. The group will perform at Marymount through tomorrow in works by Mr. Lewis, Mr. Limon, Doris Humphrey and the resident choreographer, Anna Sokolow.

A version of this article appears in print on March 7, 1981, Section 1, Page 16 of the National edition with the headline: DANCE: 5 BY DANIEL LEWIS COMPANY