Something must have happened during intermission of last night's program by the Radcliffe Choral Society and the Radcliffe Dance Group. What had started out as a group of performances ranging from mediocre on downwards was suddenly transformed into a concert that made even the more disgruntled members of the audience feel it had been worth while after all.
The first half of the evening found the Choral Society alternating between uneasiness and an unusually lacklustre manner, with even their dependable tone sounding either shrill or dead. By contrast, the second part exhibited the familiar spirit and high quality of the chorus, especially in three beautiful Welsh folksongs arranged with taste and imagination by the Society's conductor, Elliot Forbes.
There was an even greater disparity between the two halves of the dance section. The final work was an electrifying setting of Virgil Thomson's "Seven Choruses from the Medea of Euripides" choreographed by Amy Greenfield, who also danced the title role with just the right mixture of passion and inhuman wildness. As Jason, Gus Solomon combined a rigid discipline with a strongly rhythmical movement, producing an effective and intense characterization. The other dancers and the chorus were caught up by the highly charged emotion and supported the principals well. The choreography had about it a sureness and feeling for line that emphaized the fact that this was dance, and not simply a danced story.
Not only by contrast, but in their own right, it seemed to me that the other dances were rather dreary affairs. The first, and much the longest, was based on Thurber's "The Wonderful O." Read by an anonymous narrator, the story was fun to hear, but it was interrupted at intervals by dancing, much to its detriment. The danced portions were sung by a small chorus competently led by Emily Romney. Stephen Addiss' music contented itself for the most part with a two-part chanting of the text which was serviceable but monotonous, only occasionally relieved by moments of lyric freedom. The other two dances, "Emergence" and "Academic Allegory" were both abstruse, one serious, the other light, and set to music that was eminently unsuitable for dancing. The choreography for all these dances was static, concentrating heavily on cute but unsteady poses, arm movements, and writhing, often made to substitute for lack of motion, phrasing, and invention.
If one felt, at times, that some of these works had been better off left to the privacy of the rehearsal room, the program as a whole came off well in the end. And the further suspicion that these two groups might not be such tremendous bedfellows was dispelled, at least for this year, by the admirable performance of the Medea.