What made Jessica Lang Dance's debut in Dance Celebration at Annenberg Center for the Arts on Thursday night - Philadelphia's introduction to the troupe - such a pleasurable surprise was the range of the six works on Lang's artfully planned program. She's the Bucks County girl who made good choreographing for companies around the world and is now a Bessie Award-winning choreographer in New York.
Lang set a masterful table with the first Mondrian-inspired piece, "Lines Cubed," and as tastes of the variety of her choreography, offered five more delectable courses.
For "Lines Cubed," Lang outlined the stage in black with molo pieces - honeycombed, accordion-like paper, modularized and moveable. The 10-member troupe, first in black, walk out briskly in various mechanistic lines, criss-crossing each other with military precision. Even the curved lines were clipped, crisp. But with tiptoe blips every third step and eventual fallout into random patterns, the message was more playful than martial.
A stunning arrangement of electronic music by Britain-based composer John Metcalfe and Philadelphia-native Thomas Metcalf matched the Mondrian feel. Five dancers windmill offstage to return in red, with Kana Kimura the lone female among them. Clifton Brown, a powerful former Ailey dancer whom I've reviewed several times, is a founding member of the company. Randy Castillo, Kirk Henning, and Milan Misko join him to lift Kimura vertically, tossing and catching her, with a lot of floor-scooting around her.
The other Mondrian colors follow: Julie Fiorenza, Sarah Haarmann and Laura Mead replace red, jaunty as jonquils in flirty yellow skirts. Blue features a mournful duet between Claudia MacPherson and Misko. All the colors join in vertical lifts, jumps, spins.
Mead, en pointe, and Brown dance an archly romantic duet using yards of fabric ending in a pool of tulle. Least interesting choreographically was Kimura in "The Calling" - exquisitely twisting herself in white fabric wide as a parachute. Beautiful to watch, but I've seen variations on this theme before.
The elegantly understated "i.n.k" served as dessert for me. A black-and-white negative of all the colors that came before, it's a commissioned score by Jakub Ciupinski that echoed Tetsushi Wakasugi''s bubbling video with gurgling plinks and surging waves that built to a suspenseful crescendo. Her partner slips one woman face down on the floor, her undulating arms and torso in diving mode, a gently spilling wave on warm sand.