It's a nice little juxtaposition, celebrating your dance company's 35th anniversary with the very show where you introduce three brand-new performers (more than half the troupe). But Dance Alloy Theater, under the direction of Greer Reed-Jones, pulled it off with a smart, lively show whose four-performance run ended Sunday.
The program was a solid mix of new and old. But it opened with an historical tribute. With help from performance poet Vanessa German, Reed-Jones sectioned the Alloy's history into four chunks, each with its own representative movement style.
Dancers, for instance, worked in between video of early-1980s interviews with former artistic directors Susan Gillis and Elsa Limbach. And there was a fun group work that accompanied early-'90s (I think) footage of the troupe appearing on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, rolling around on big exercise balls.
More poignant, for reasons that had only partly to do with the dance itself, was the tribute to the Mark Taylor era -- 1991-2003, making him the longest-serving of the company's artistic directors. This was a Tayloresque solo by Michael Walsh, the lone current dancer to have performed under Taylor. (Walsh joined the Alloy in 1999; Taylor is still on the group's board of directors.)
The 2003-09 artistic directorship of Beth Corning was represented by a moving solo by Maribeth Maxa, whose Alloy tenure began with Corning's. The piece utilized a straight-backed red chair -- a tip of the hat to one of Corning's original choreographic works, and in general to her commitment to dance theater. (It was Corning who added the "theater" to the company's name.)
New also joined old in "The Son is the Father to the Man," a sturdy duet by former company member Kevin Maloney, danced by Walsh and newcomer Raymond Interior. And the whole company seemed to have a blast with Taylor's "Swan Lake: Act II," an inspired bit of silliness parodying the famed ballet, complete with Tchaikovsky score.
Fittingly, though, this anniversary program's most memorable piece might have been the newest work: "When You Hear Hoofbeats, Think Horses," by former company member (and now Pennsylvania Dance Theatre artistic director) André Koslowski. It's an all-out dance-theater piece -- movement-based, but often more like experimental theater than traditional dance.
What else would you expect when you return from intermission and the stage is set with props including a metal collander, a pushbroom, a hardhat, a pile of tree branches ... and a larger-than-life inflatable zebra? The darkly provocative 45-minute work, which Koslowski developed with the dancers through journaling and other assignments, seemed mostly about its characters either abusing or ignoring each other.
Read into it what you like, but a labored sequence or two aside it was fascinating to watch, and a chance for newcomers Jasmine Hearn and Gretchen Moore to show off their acting chops as well as movement technique. Moore in particular was delightfully mischievous -- a nice complement to her comic turns in "Swan Lake: Act II."