When the members of Dayton Contemporary Dance Company hit the stage in excerpts from Talley Beatty’s 1960 Come and Get the Beauty of It Hot and Donald Byrd’s 1991 Dark Joy, they’re 60 percent eye-grabbing technique and 40 percent attitude. Beatty pioneered in black sass, and created steps so rapid, intricate, and percussive that a dancer practically has to be angry just to deliver them cleanly. Slice! Chop! Punch! Byrd creates brainy structures to challenge himself (”Each movement of the single dancer is interpreted by the sextet who represent her head, torso, arms, and legs”), but what comes across is a speedy, high-intensity ritual of murderous modern ballet performed by a corps, two couples, and a high priestess fringed with fishnet and encrusted with jewels. Dancer G.D. Harris, who rides Beatty’s superfast steps better than anyone, unfortunately adds attitude to Asadata Dafora’s 1932 Awassa Astrige/Ostrich, substituting arrogance for dignity. Odd, since this short, finely designed solo by one of the first choreographers to work with African material was staged for the company by Ella Thompson- Moore; her late husband, Charles, danced it magnificently.
A world premiere, Offering, by resident choreographer Kevin Ward, makes the dancers look completely different, human, changeable. Meet Sheri Williams, no longer just a little bundle of confrontational energy, but an interesting woman working and playing her way through a long, fascinating solo that dialogues with music by, for God’s sake, Glazounov. Let your eye travel with hers while four couples perform simultaneous duets. Watch men take turns carrying Alvin Rangel like a baby, while choral music (by Delius now) offers a hosanna. Learn what a fine, full dancer Monnette Bariel is.
Ward’s work is dedicated to the late James Truitte, founding member of the Ailey company and DCDC’s master teacher for 20 years. In the exalted finale, individual dancers are briefly spotlit in poses associated with Truitte’s roles. Offering may not be flawless, but it’s full of beauty and a gift to these vibrant dancers. At the Joyce, they carried their individuality into the stamping-clapping intricacies of Reach by Rhythm in Shoes codirector Sharon Leahy, and brought down the house.