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Heart leaps and falls with uneven Phoenix troupe


Sandra Lacey's performance in Amy Pivar's "Touch the Frog" was the zenith of the Phoenix Repertory Dance Company's uneven concert Thursday night.

As one might expect from the title, this dance, performed by the University of Maryland Baltimore County troupe, was filled with froggy imagery, from Ms. Lacey's slick, short, spring-green costume to her oddly graceful leg flexes. Performed with consummate control by Ms. Lacey, Ms. Pivar's work condenses expected images into finely drawn sketches of delightful, plastic movement.

Beginning with a series of blackouts that placed that dancer in a pool of light, the work features Ms. Lacey as she stretches and contracts, performing a series of light hops and a few leaps. Wisely, the choreographer does not want Ms. Lacey to turn into a frog; instead, it is the creature's elasticity that comes to the foreground. Ms. Lacey's command of movement is inspiring.

On the flip side was faculty member Douglas Hamby's premiere of "Moonlight," a duet for himself and company member Emily Giza that turns the pair of dancers into June bugs in love. More dependent on personality than choreography, Mr. Hamby's dance could be as witty as Gail Beach's bright, iridescent-green beetle costumes, instead of mere slapstick, if more attention is paid to the dance than to the dancers. There is an idea here, but it hasn't gotten beyond its juvenile stage.

"Site Visit," performed by guest artist Kristen O'Shee, suffered from overdevelopment. Deriving inspiration from "prehistoric images of ancient female deities," according to the program, Ms. O'Shee's solo was intense in its concentrated and often potent impressions. The lengthy work was demanding for both performer and audience. It was as if Ms. O'Shee didn't want to neglect any goddess, and the dance was weighted down with extraneous and often repeated movements.

Faculty member Carol Hess presented two premieres, both involved with video technology. The first work, "Private Property," featured dancer Pamela Matthews, whose movements were filmed by video artist Vin Grabill. The strength of the real-time video images contrasted with Ms. Matthews' dancing. While the concept was interesting, the dance itself was not.

The collaborative effort between Ms. Hess and Mr. Grabill seen in the video film "Changing Room," which featured Ms. Giza and Eric Hawkins, gives us an idea of how video and dance can be incorporated into an artwork. The quick editing that mirrored Neal Woodson's score was at times disorienting, but the film's repetitive images were recombined in intriguing ways in sync with the music.

Mr. Hamby's premiere of "Junk" closed the evening, and despite several clever moments, the uneven technique of the five dancers undermined the choreography.


What: Phoenix Repertory Dance Company

When: 8 tonight

Where: University of Maryland Baltimore County Theatre

Tickets: $10 general, $6 students and seniors

Call: (410) 455-2476

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