Pair Hope Dance Lineup Is Right Step for KenCen

Article excerpt

When Charles and Stephanie Reinhart took over as artistic advisers for dance at the Kennedy Center almost two years ago, most of the programs for last year were already set. So the couple had to wait until this season to make their mark.

They're wasting no time. This month begins the first full season that displays their dynamic, sometimes daring dance leadership. Witness the lineup for this week alone: the area debut of China's Guangdong Modern Dance Company, a group unknown to Washington, followed by a world premiere by the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. Mr. Jones is a controversial, cutting-edge choreographer.

The Reinharts have a brilliant track record as supporters and nurturers of dance. For 30 years Mr. Reinhart - first by himself and then in partnership with wife Stephanie - has directed the American Dance Festival (ADF), the summer performance center and influential training ground of modern dance based in Durham, N.C. The ADF is renowned for its innovative, creative support of new movements in dance.

The Reinharts will retain their positions at ADF as they bring their zest and experience to a larger arena. Their choices at the Kennedy Center will have a significant impact not only on Washington audiences but on the dance scene both nationally and internationally.

"I've learned that this opportunity is real," Stephanie Reinhart says of their work here. "There's an attitude at the top if you suggest something of `Why not?' instead of `Why?' and that's extraordinary."

The Reinharts have spent decades helping creative artists be creative. They know from experience that with that kind of risk-taking will come some failures. It's clear they don't panic at the prospect.

"We have a responsibility to try and build audiences," Mr. Reinhart says. "And sometimes that means hanging in with an artist." For example, Eiko and Koma, two Japanese-born and New York-based artists who won a MacArthur "genius" award a couple of years ago, will present a commissioned work here April 7-9. The pair perform in a beautifully austere, concentrated manner that is in stark contrast to much of today's aerobic-type dancing, and when the Reinharts first presented Eiko and Koma at ADF it didn't go over well. "The audience walked out in droves," recalls Mr. Reinhart. "The next time nobody was walking out, and now they're sold out every time they come."

In the cornucopia of new dance experiences the Reinharts are bringing to the Kennedy Center are two sets of one-time-only performances they have assembled themselves.

"Tribute to the Solo," March 3-5, will feature works by Martha Graham (danced by Janet Eilber), Helen Tamiris (danced by Dianne McIntyre), Mary Wigman and Martha Clarke. Interestingly, no male solos have been announced.

The second project celebrates the rich heritage of black choreographers. Many did not maintain companies and their choreography was in danger of being lost until the Reinharts initiated a preservation project at ADF. …