By Anne Herman
Daily News correspondent
When a local dance company announces it’s performing a “world premiere,” one might not get too excited. After all, unless the troupe plans to tour extensively, seeing a dance for the first time isn’t always that special.
But when that dance troupe is Alaska Dance Theatre, some of those premieres just might stand up to the hype. Friday evening’s “Mobius” dance concert in the Discovery Theater included four world premieres, two Anchorage premieres and one work getting a second look.
Guest choreographer Minh Tran’s “Furious Angels” blew the lid off the program’s first half, while ADT artistic director Alice Sullivan’s “Terra-Sphere” did the same in the second half, with a totally different aesthetic.
“Furious Angels,” which debuted in Oregon in 2005, began calmly as six dancers slowly walked in a spotlighted circle. Periodically, an arm stretched out or a dancer leaned against the group, yet they all kept moving. It was hard to tell when the dance changed, but soon these red-clad women were screaming across the stage in headlong actions that never paused.
They vaulted into off-center leaps, barreled around in circles, and then abruptly changed direction. Just as suddenly, they slowed to a crawl. Then they were back steamrolling to a climax of frenzied, repeating movements.
Sullivan’s premiere “Terra-Sphere,” set to music by the Kronos Quartet, was a sleek, contemporary ballet. Her sensitivity to musical phrasing was present throughout, texturing deceptively simple movements with small moments of suspension and almost unseen gestures.
A quintet of soloists led by guest dancer Briana Sullivan handled the dance with subtle sophistication and ease. Each step, every gesture and pause, was deliberate and clean, but all played out in intricate movement lines like those of a filigree necklace.
Leslie Kimiko Ward’s “Hachijo” echoed Japanese kabuki dance in its movements and temperament. Dressed in a red lion’s mask, Ward dominated the stage with spread-eagle leaps and pounces, splayed hands and an untamed white mane that lashed the air.
ADT’s choreographer-in-residence returned in her solo premiere “Ballad of Ol’ Jack,” a honky tonk, down-at-the-heels slouch through a bottle of Jack Daniels. The dance suited Ward perfectly: sly, physically humorous and rhythmically complex.
Guest choreographer Maureen Whiting premiere work, “Falling From Secrets,” was a bit strange. Discrete gestures and steps – a dancer’s foot stretching out into a sensual point, a hand sliding under a thigh to open it in a squat, the silent scream of an open-mouthed performer - were interesting in themselves. But these movement blocks linked awkwardly at times and the dance stuttered to completion, rather than moved organically.
Guest choreographer Amy Martin’s premiere “From There to Here” and ADT choreographer in residence Pamela Walden Renno’s 1996 “15 Wild Decembers” highlighted the ensemble performers. Five young women shimmered in blue dresses, weaving silken movements in the romantic “13 Wild Decembers.” Dancers unfolded “From There to Here” with grace and dignity in small groups that spun off stage or melted to the floor, only to come together again at the dance’s end.
ADT turned in another fine concert Friday. It was an evening of works that deserve to be seen again, performed by a company that gets better and better each time they step on stage.
Anne Herman holds a masters degree in dance and has been a consultant for the National Endowment for the Arts.