The programming at the Riverside Dance Festival is the most eclectic in town. On Tuesday, the Theater of the Riverside Church opened its 1985 season with a 10th anniversary celebration that offered a typically wide-ranging sample of Riverside fare over the years. It was certainly too generous a sampling, with 24 full dances and excerpts from ballet, modern dance, jazz and ethnic works. But the celebration, which continues through Sunday, had its share of transcendent moments.
Chief among those was the dancing of Jim May and Dian Dong in a duet from Anna Sokolow´s “Lyric Suite”. The dance evokes the taut, fresh anguish of its score by Alban Berg with simple walks and embraces. With lesser artists than Mr. May and Miss Dong, the effect might be lost, but these two artists moved as if with every fiber of their beings. The other performing highlight of the evening was the sure, strong, delicately phrased dancing of the exquisite Petra Adelfang in “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux”, in which she was partnered by Patrick Cea.
It was good to see the gracious and precise Evelyn Shepherd again, this time in a solo from Pauline Koner´s “”Wondrous Moment”. And Bertram Ross once more turned laughter into a sudden shock of sympathy at the end of “Raymond”, his portrait of Raymond Duncan. Pablo Savoye offered one of his first-rate classical performances in the pas de deux from August Bournonville´s “La Sylphide”. But we are accustomed to his elegance. The revelation was the fresh charm and beautifully schooled technique of Maria Teresa Del Real in her New York debut.
Carla Stallings displayed her clear, open classical attack in the pas de deux from “The Nutcracker”. Her partner was the ingratiating Gregory Mitchell. And Vanessa Harwood danced with touching passion on an excerpt from Matthew Nash´s amusing “Allure”, in which she was partnered by a sweetly ingenuous Michael Lott.
The third and last segment was a joy from start to close. Ohad Naharin and Iris Hoffman were witty and resilient as the battling lovers in Mr. Naharin´s sly “Sixty a Minute”. Danny Buraczeski and Becky Bowden were simpler lovers in Mr. Buraczeski´s “Here We Go Again”. an exuberant ballet-flavored jitterbug for two. Rebecca Rigert and Jay Kerns won the evening´s honors for partnering in a sensuous duet, danced with extraordinarily intense physicality, from Milton Myer´s “Bagatelles”.
Ella Thompson Moore and Charles Moore were eloquent as the teasing lovers of “Souvenir d´Haiti”, in which they were accompanied on the drums and flute by Chef Bey, Richard Byrd and Ron McBee.
Morocco was literally mesmerizing, clothed from head to feet in gold which shimmered with her swinging hips in “Egyptian Women´s Cane Dance”.
And Doug Shearer nearly stole the show as the imperturbably cheerful male in “Baronja”. a traditional Serbian flirtation dance that was also performed by Peggy Christ and Hilary Roberts, all of the George Tomov Yugoslav Folkdance Ensemble.
Phyllis Lamhut had the look of cycladic figure in her improvised opening to the program. An excerpt from David Dorfman´s “Big Top” gave Mr Dorfman and Mickey McLaughlin a brooding sexual tease of a duet, set to an evocative score by David Sprayberry. The program was completed by works by Talley Beatty, Mary Anthony, Isadora Duncan, Sohpie Maslow, Clarence Teeters, Ricky Schussel and William Carter. The performers included the engaging Carl Fields, Melinda Welty and Brian Frette, Linda Hayes, Lori Belilove, Lynne Frielinghaus, Mr. Schussel, Barbara Allengra, Shelly Wald, Janis Pforsich, Miguel Angel Diaz, Diana Byer and Ruth Mayer.