1982 New York Times

March 7, 1982




So many young modern dancers today are seen in the reduced vocabulary or intricate patterning of the works labeled as ”post-modern” that one wonders who is left who can still master the styles and techniques of mainstream modern dance.


The Daniel Lewis Dance Company was able to do all this very well Thursday night at Riverside Church with a varied program that was repeated yesterday afternoon and will be repeated with one change tonight. At the opening, the composer, Virgil Thomson, was on hand to take an open-armed bow after the premiere of Elizabeth Keen’s ”Taking the Air,” which is set to Mr. Thomson’s Ten Etudes for Piano. Anna Sokolow was in the audience for a revival of her 1965 ”Ballade.” Another premiere was Ze’eva Cohen’s ”Randall’s Island,” and the evening was completed by Mr. Lewis’s ”Open Book” and ”There’s Nothing Here of Me But Me.”


Mr. Lewis’s company, then, is, as always, concerned with both new and old works, and it is subtitled ”a repertory company.” The overwhelming feel in the works lies in academically composed structures and expression of emotion. There was however, ample room for differences in point of view. Miss Keen’s ”Taking the Air” is a light piece, delightfully matching the gaiety of the Thomson etudes with an unrelated conceit that nonetheless seems just right. Charles Berliner’s very attractive ink drawing and gouache slides of a gaynineties seaside is reflected in his period bathing suits for five dancers.


From then on Miss Keen works with the idea of turn-of-the-century bathers at the beach, abstracting swimming movements and surf imagery in original and playful ways. The piece is jaunty and is jauntily danced by Kristen Borg, Kathleen Casey, Randall Faxon Parker, Jim May and Clifford Shulman.


Miss Parker was the soloist in ”Randall’s Island” (to Stravinsky’s Piano Sonata in C.) The title is a geographical pun on the dancer’s name, and Miss Cohen’s island is a pool of light, which momentarily disappears. Miss Parker has a series of repeated curved and pushing motifs but there was a sense of genuine release and growth by the end.


Mr. Lewis dedicated ”Open Book” to his cousin, Joan Shapiro, who died at the age of 36. While the work is eventually quite moving, it is not lugubrious – but an attempt to catch, seemingly, the sense of a young person’s active life, interestingly lived. Miss Parker and Jim May were the parent figures, with Jane Carrington as the heroine, who speaks as do other members of the cast, including Miss Casey, Mr. Shulman and Stephen Nunley. Mr. Lewis’s attempts at dissociation in the text and movement sometimes seem private or just obscure but the general thrust is a strong one. On the other hand, ”There’s Nothing Here of Me But Me” falls flat: Mr. May plays himself as a dancer whose fantasies delve into self-analysis, backed up by overly neat group choreography. Keith Sabado and Mr. Lewis joined the company onstage here.


The high point of the evening was the Scriabin ”Ballade,” in which Miss Sokolow’s two couples, chest up and running, reflect the poignancy of youth and love. The shifting relationships were beautifully conveyed by Mr. May and Miss Carrington, Mr. Shulman and Miss Borg.