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Bill Evans presented "End of the Trail" on August 27 and 28 as his tribute to choreographer Bella Lewitzky and her great contributions to dance in America.

With the dissolution of the Lewitzky Dance Company in 1997 and Lewitzky's retirement to Albuquerque, many of her admirers questioned whether this was indeed the end of the trail for her, or whether her legacy of passionate, cerebral dance would continue to influence American dance.

Evans framed the program around Lewitzky's Ceremony for Three: the opening End of the Trail, based on cowboy art themes and choreographed by Evans in 1972; his closing Tin-Tal, which evoked a Hindu sense of a timeless continuum. And in between choice nuggets from the early Evans repertory, were Eve Gentry's haunting Tenant of the Street, and a beautiful new solo by Lewitzky's daughter, Nora Reynolds Daniel, Thread of Light, that was dedicated to her mother.

This was the third concert in a series by Evans's company celebrating the company's twenty-fifth anniversary: "Silver" was a retrospective of both modern and tap dances by Evans; in the spring was a vibrant tap and jazz dance festival at the University. "End of the Trail" was the third offering, to be followed by a tour of the company's works in conjunction with the Willy Sucre Trio of the New Mexico Symphony. This fine company continues to demonstrate the great versatility of its founder.

Lewitzky, one of the few great American talents to establish a company outside New York City (her company was based in Los Angeles until her retirement), was a major inspiration in the 1970s for young choreographers to work at a regional level. Evans founded his company in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1975 but later moved to Albuquerque.

It was serendipitous that Evans was the one to bring together this tribute. Walter Kennedy, a veteran member of the Lewitzky Company, was brought in to set Ceremony for Three. It is believed to be the first time that a Lewitzky work was performed by dancers outside her own thirty-one-year-old company. Local dancers Don Halquist, Roger Montoya, and Ronn Stewart performed the strong, highly athletic rituals of this male ceremony with emotional intensity and a smooth flow of muscular energy. Their personal movement qualities were unified by Lewitzky's angular, almost archaic designs.

Darlene Neel, for years an integral member of Lewitzky's productions, designed a surreal tent that stretched above the three figures and served as both a visual tribal metaphor and a tabernacle. The music for trumpet and drums by Cara Bradbury Marcus provided a high, instrumental chant above the rhythmic base, as pools of light flashed on each of the men, introducing the basic movement themes.

Lewitzky's "ceremony" captured in the choreography an essential maleness that rose above sexuality to become iconic. The men executed the muscular and immensely exciting movement while maintaining a sustained and silky continuity, broken sharply by spasmodic accents and dramatic falls.

Daniel's solo, Thread of Light, was really a duet that established a relationship between her own movement and various sources of light that were focused from changing points on the darkened stage. Her lyrical movement seemed to scoop invisible threads of energy from the air as though her hands were weaving delicate strands from the light. Light became a symbol of nourishment and love in this piece. After several years' hiatus, it was a treat to see Daniel performing again with her subtle grasp of the poetry of dance gesture.

Evans's richly comic Ashtabula Rag magnified the mildly neurotic behavioral gestures of his dancers after a long tour in the winter of 1977.

The second excerpt from Evans's Saintly Passion to Bach's "Saint Matthew Passion," presented Evans in the role of cerebral creator, seated at stage right as Denise Herrera filled out his dream creations in space with her airy, curving arabesques of arms and torso.

Mary Anne Santos Newhall's gripping reconstruction of Gentry's 1938 Tenant of the Street brought the program to its final statement, Tin-Tal. Evans created Tin-Tal in 1971 to Mahapurush Misra's fusion of Eastern and Western tabla music.

Halquist and Linda Johnson-Gallegos of the Evans company danced as dream figures of Hindu deities in a kind of airless, spiritual space. Sensuous, yet removed from human passion, they initiated the sleeping figure, Evans, at stage right, into their sphere as all three moved into spiraling turns that flowed in a seemingly timeless space as the lights dimmed.

End of the trail or spiritual continuum, the concert experience was a beautiful and compelling tribute to a national dance treasure.
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Title Annotation:Review
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Nov 1, 1999
Previous Article:LADIES DOING LIFE.

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