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Lula Washington Dance Theatre.

Lula Washington DANCE Theatre John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, CA September 3, 2005

Star power not only gleamed in the sky but glittered onstage when Lula Washington's Los Angeles-based troupe presented a 10-part program, "Looking Back/Moving Forward--25 Years of Dance and Going On ..." as part of its Silver Anniversary celebration. Washington, who choreographs 80 percent of her company's works, has also championed other black dancemakers, presenting classic pieces by, among others, Alvin Ailey, Donald Byrd, and Donald McKayle.

The West Coast premiere of McKayle's I've Known Rivers, a muscular solo set to a Langston Hughes poem, was spectacularly danced by guest artist Stephanie Powell. An homage to dance icon Pearl Primus, this mini-saga of black buoyancy encompassed might, joy, and nobility in a mere four minutes.

Postmodern choreographer Rudy Perez was also on the bill with Shifts, a reworking from 2003, in which five dancers' gambits blossomed from pedestrian moves and arched-back poses into hops and extended balances, suggesting themes of isolation and the randomness of life.

Louis Johnson, another elder statesman (he choreographed Broadway's original Purlie), offered his lyrical Duet for Noel Pointer, with Rocklin Thompson and April Thomas Wilkins demonstrating flawless technique and beautiful lines within their steamy partnering. Washington scored big with last year's Spontaneous Combustion, a fever-pitch showcase of mostly improvised solos danced to Marcus L. Miller Band's live jazz. She also did a few sassy turns in the program opener, Saint Mongo. Her daughter, Tamica Washington-Miller, got down with a dozen dancers in her new Thanks and Praises, a raucous jazz romp, while Jeremiah Tatum worked magic with a group of hip hopping students in his groovy Boot Camp. Less successful: Washington's 01997-8, and her premiere, For Those Who Live and Die for Us. The former, a duet with Dance Theatre of Harlem principals Tai Jimenez and Ramon Thielen, proved an overly long combat-cum-mating routine: the latter, a tribute to American soldiers, contained more calisthenics than inspired choreography.

Completing the program were Jimenez' gorgeous pointe solo, Barre, and Christopher Huggins' On the Edge, an overwrought duet dealing with suicide. Kudos to Washington, though, who has powered through 25 years and will, hopefully, keep the dance torch glowing for another quarter century. See www.lulawashington.com.
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Author:Looseleaf, Victoria
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Dec 1, 2005
Words:372
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