At times the six dancers moved soberly, walking across the stage or presenting themselves in moments of stillness. But they also took turns with wilder, outward-flinging movements that suggested possession. William Nakia Isaac's fast, full-arm swipes registered as blurred arcs.
In contrast to this promising work-in-progress, Gene Hill Sagan's La Valse felt quite dated. Though created in the 1970s, it harked back to the '40s with an effulgent Ravel score (heard with unfortunately distorted sound), an array of twirling black dresses with gold trim, and even its dramatic hook: a single man surrounded by seven adoring women.
Elisa Monte's Dreamtime has a fierce precision that is still fresh. Once the stage smoke calmed down, it formed long, diagonal rays of hazy white light, an elegantly effective backdrop for this Australian Aboriginal-inspired dance. This linearity carried through the movement, with the dancers' limbs leaning and pointing, quickly shifting in different planes, as if marking spirit lines in the desert. Their vagrant, fluttering hands suggested the sharp attunement of wild animals.
Saturday's performance closed with another preview-cum-premiere: Echoes: A Celebration of Alvin Ailey, by Philadanco's resident choreographer, Milton Myers. It is scheduled to appear in fuller form next year. Myers danced with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, and this work is conceived by Philadanco's director, Joan Myers Brown, as part of a larger cycle of dance works in tribute to influential choreographic ``ancestors'' of African American dance.
While sometimes overwhelmed by the pumping, high-test John Adams sound track, Myers achieved some big, upbeat moments with his cast of 12. The dancers' swiveling upper bodies and fast, wide-armed turns, set off by more staccato, puppetlike movements, generated an enthusiasm that might be the best tribute to the great Ailey.