Ann Vachon/dance Conduit Marks 10th Anniversary

Posted: March 02, 1991

Ann Vachon/Dance Conduit is celebrating its 10th anniversary, and last night at Temple University's Conwell Dance Theater threw itself a retrospective tribute called Decadance. The well-chosen program proved how valuable this company is, especially as a preserver of the classic era of modern dance.

In addition to newly made dances by Vachon and associate director Naomi Mindlin, the bill included excerpts from pieces by the late Jose Limon (Vachon's mentor) and Carla Maxwell, the current director of the Limon company. The surprise visitor was the choreographer Mark Morris, represented by the solo I Love You Dearly and danced by Mindlin.

The current enfant terrible of the dance scene, Morris is hardly the artist you would associate with an august figure like Limon. But the inclusion turned out to be remarkably shrewd and enlightening.

I Love You Dearly, created in 1981, in the early years of Morris' career, is set to Romanian folk songs. In its own way, it has all the breadth of

vision and pure love of movement characteristic of Limon and his followers. And in evoking the spirit of Limon, it reveals the best of Morris.

One of the solo's most delightful aspects is Morris' capacity to absorb many different strains of dance and make it look like nobody but Morris. The most obvious influence here is Balkan dance, but one can also find the spirit of Isadora Duncan in the robust looseness of the dancer's thrusts and kicks, and the spirit of Doris Humphrey (the mentor of Limon) in the dance's musicality.

If you're looking for the special Morris touch, it's in the pixieish humor of the first part, where the same dancer keeps exiting so that she may make grand entrances.

One problem to have beset Dance Conduit for years is that often the dancers are not up to their material. Mindlin caught the largesse of the Duncan imagery but was less successful in handling the delicacy and rhythmic play of the Balkan influence. An absolute gem of a dance, I Love You Dearly rightly belongs in the hands of a top-notch dancer.

The same problem befell the Limon and Maxwell excerpts, except for one magnificent performance. Only when guest artist Jim May danced a solo from Limon's Dances: In Honor of Poznan, Wroclaw, Katowice and Warszawa did dance and dancer meet on equal terms.

May made of this snippet a riveting existential sonnet along the lines of a soliloquy from Hamlet. "Shall I bend over or stand, lift the right leg or the left?" May's intensity turned every movement into a momentous decision, as momentous as "To be or not to be."

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