Dancewave’s Kids Company, invented and run by Diane Jacobowitz, has a unique mission. It selects, by audition, some 20 New York City youngsters between 11 and 18, gives them a couple of classes a week, and has them learn and perform the work of top-notch contemporary choreographers. A recent program (Tribeca Performing Arts Center, December) included repertory from Mark Morris, Doug Varone, and David Dorfman; Twyla Tharp and Bill T. Jones have also participated in the scheme.
The project does not propose to nurture pre-professionals. Just the opposite; Jacobowitz explains, “It lets kids be kids.” Some of these kids hone their skills by taking additional classes elsewhere, and a few graduates have made careers in dance. Most of them simply benefit from the interaction with major artists at a crucial point in their lives. It’s a swell idea—except for the fact that audience members not connected to the performers by blood or affection may wonder why they’re watching the show. These nascent dancers offer the beauty of youth, but that’s generic, visible all over town, wherever adolescents congregate. Some of them have a distinct gift for movement, but that’s still not enough to make a dance meaningful as an artistic creation and theatrical event.
Most of the pieces lacked focus in their presentation. Only the excerpts from Morris’s L’Allegro, il penseroso ed il moderato were really gratifying. Morris, deeply affected by his participation as a teenager in a Balkan folk dance group, has retained in his choreography the marvelous way people can move when they’re not shackled to technical accomplishment. His work accommodates these as yet unformed aspirants. It forgives the limitations of their skills, makes their awkwardness touching, and reveals their best qualities—seriousness of purpose, charm, vulnerability, desire, radiance.
Kids Company’s annual benefit performance takes place Friday at the Brooklyn Music School; visit www.virtuous.com for information.