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Celebratory dances draw deft characters


Phoenix Repertory Dance Company is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a program of dances by company members and guest choreographers, David Rousseve and Stephanie Skura.

Titled "Unknown Territories," Thursday evening's performance of seven dances (with three premieres) has all the feel of a stroll through a portrait gallery. With the exception of Carol Hess' new work "Unknown Territory/Credo in US," the balance of the program deftly deals out emotional and psychological characterizations.

From Mr. Rousseve's opening number, "Caged Bird Singing in the Pale Moonlight," to Douglas Hamby's "Juncture," Sandra Lacy's "Song of Light," Amanda Thom-Woodson's "Place Your Bets/Breakfast Politics" and Ms. Hess' "The Collected," each dance defined and outlined a character. Even the closing dance, Ms. Skura's clever "Ghosts," could be taken for a psychological unveiling of the disembodied.

Ms. Hess' abstract quartet, "Unknown Territory," danced to a score by the late John Cage, is a nicely crated work that complements the score's aural shifts with its spatial alterations. "Unknown Territory" relies not only on the theatrical qualities of chance and spontaneity but graciously juxtaposes them against a technically clean movement base that results in a satisfying sense of adventure and play. Ms. Lacy, Robin Branch, Ms. Woodson and Linda Garofalo-McDevitt were clear and personable in their performance.

Mr. Hamby's new dance "Juncture," danced by guest artist Salome Solano, is full of dark and fractured phrasings held together with Ms. Solano's thoughtful performance. If we were to take the program notes -- "A woman explores the inner recesses of her mind" -- at face value, this woman would be headed for Sheppard-Pratt.

The final premiere, "Song of Light," choreographed and performed by Ms. Lacy, is a dramatically attuned portrait by one of Baltimore's best dancers. Ms. Lacy's work begins with a tremble that magnifies throughout her strong body. Her movements flow logically, with small gestures imprinting their emotional messages here and there. Toward the close of the dance, Ms. Lacy advances toward the audience, her hands open in a gesture of giving of friendship. When she retreats, her hands forming a mask over her face, the effect is dramatic and true.

"Place Your Bets" by Amanda Thom-Woodson, is a grim account of compulsive gambling. Ms. Woodson is a fierce dancer and her characterization of a woman consumed by her vice, while overstocked with props, is nonetheless compelling.


What: Phoenix Repertory Dance Company

When: 8 tonight

Where: University of Maryland Baltimore County, 5401 Wilkens Ave.

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