Back in the days when Dance Central performed regularly at panoramic Pease Auditorium, there was a thing of beauty and grace named Georgia Tucker who elevated each of the presentations by Katharyn Horne’s troupe above the mundane. But Dance Central, at least in its secular form, never crossed the Jordan to the promised land of the Dale F. Halton Theater when that stately edifice first peeped out on E. Independence Boulevard in 2005.
Now there’s a new Horne-led troupe laying claim to residency at the Halton, CPCC Dance Theatre, which performed their first potpourri at the five-year-old palace last week, a collection of choreographies called Love’s Labor. Like Moses, Georgia has apparently been left behind in the Sinai of CP’s cultural history, and none of the ballerinas gliding en pointe in her place for Michael Folkine’s Les Sylphides was her equal. To find the promise for the reborn company, I had to divert my attention to the beautiful traditional costumes exhumed from CP’s musty storage facilities and to Horne’s parallel resurrection. Twenty dancers were deployed across the Halton stage, thanks to Horne’s meticulous staging, often in multiple tableaus, with a dimension unknown to pancake Pease. Depth! You could see what the glorious choreography was supposed to look like.
Two modernistic solos followed Sylphide’s classic symmetries after the pause as we abruptly switched from the music of Chopin to the rasping of Tom Waits in Clay Daniel’s Suite Waits. Quality improved from a dancing standpoint. Norma Poplin emitted a killer vulgarity wielding a double-edged ax in “Lovey,” but she held back a little on the predatory swagger. Javier Gonzalez was the real deal in his “Slick” solo — controlled, athletic, with sensuous lines.
Tucker’s heir apparent reappeared in a major role after intermission, portraying The Leader in Horne’s five-part Giver of Masks. But Gonzalez’ prowess wasn’t the only highlight as an ensemble of 11 danced to pre-recorded music by the Bill Hanna Quintet. Colton Southworth made pleasing splash, smooth and graceful in his first appearance of the evening, paired with Kirsi Enckell as The Lovers. Until one or more of the ladies develops under Horne’s tutelage — or the whole Halton dance ambiance attracts a higher grade of student to the CP program — Southworth and Gonzalez will remain the worthiest of Tucker’s mantle.
Far quirkier than Les Sylphides, Horne’s The Giver of Masks has a hazy scenario, with her “Ritual” set to “My Funny Valentine” and “Celebration & Expulsion of the Bird Followers” cast even more incongruously on “Green Dolphin Street.” But the company was far more zesty and pleasing throughout Masks as they dispensed with the starchy balletic formalities of Sylphides and took on more human roles. Favorable indications, then, that “Love’s Labor” marks an auspicious beginning rather than a lost cause.