Acclaimed Kahurangi Maori Dance Theatre of New Zealand presented an outpouring of song, incantations, and movement—all firmly interlaced as is its cultural custom—before an enthralled audience. From rapid finger flutters to haka warrior poses, thrusts, and vocal outbursts so strong you feel them in your gut, Tama Huata’s troupe of six kept us riveted as they unfolded a Maori creation myth in a dozen sections. But did you know that the plastic-wrapped balls expertly twirled by the performers are usually stuffed with poi? For anyone interested in learning about the roots of this spectacle, the sketchy program notes were fairly useless. In this context, Kahurangi’s merging of traditional storytelling movement and singing with electronic pop stylings, while unquestionably entertaining, fell short of the company’s educational aims.
As implied by their program’s title, Dallas Black Dance Theatre and Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE intended to “share the spirit.” Both companies sport marvelous dancers who go about their business as if doing God’s bidding, as the old folks would say. But comparisons end there. The Texans favor a respectable, crowd-soothing if impersonal ballet-modern mélange, sort of Balanchine-meets-Ailey. In Lambarena, where legs often unfurl into long, sometimes rotating extensions, it’s easy to see that choreographer Troy Powell is obsessed with the group’s exceptional lines. And Christopher Huggins, maker of the breezy, running-themed Night Run, fell hard for their swift feet. Meanwhile, Brooklyn’s breathtaking EVIDENCE rocks steady with a bounty of inventions based in Senegalese Sabar dance. Brown’s works don’t ask their dancers to simply sketch music across a stage in an attractive way but to turn every rhythm into a bustling universe, supple with the force of meaning and soul.