Zenon Dance Company

ZENON DANCE COMPANY, Minneapolis/St. Paul's only professional repertory troupe, is a regional treasure. Let me count the ways. Uniqueness: The seven-member company handles a mixed repertoire of jazz and modern dance. Consistency: The troupe dances its rigorous programs fearlessly and superbly. Talent: Denise Armistead (elegant and assured), Christine Maginnis (immensely versatile but inherently comic), Wynn Fricke (intelligent and true), Megan Flood (moody and dynamic). Repertoire: The often risky, innovative work of emerging choreographers from Minneapolis to New York to Buenos Aires.

If I have any beef about Zenon, it usually has to do with this last point, the choreography itself, which often falls short of the mark. And the troupe's fall concert, which premiered last weekend at Hennepin Center for the Arts, is no exception. Take the premiere of local percussive-dance choreographer Joe Chvala's "The Red Walls" (with percussion by Savage "Auxiliary" Hotbed). The piece elaborates on a section extracted from his operatic "Mjollnir," where dancers--dressed in black jack boots, muscle shirts, jeans, and caps--rhythmically pound chairs, red-painted plywood, oil drums, and the floor with red sticks. The Zenon dancers bring tons of gusto to the work. But they lack the verve, precision, and commitment of Chvala's own troupe, the Flying Foot Forum, relying instead on mere attitude.

But the bigger problem is the choreography. There is no percussive dance (i.e., dancing feet against the floor) in "Red Walls"--and the result is a real lack of power in the piece. Plus, in this work, Chvala's added gestures (of strangulation, fighting, beatings) undermine his often brilliant realms of metaphor with the literal.

On the other hand, New York choreographer Bill Young's "Veiling" (1994), seen a year after its premiere, is now less irritatingly post-modern in its evocation of the shadowy workings of the unconscious. At once disturbing and comfortable, luminous and translucent (sensations enhanced by Mio Morales's score), the piece groups dancers as so many parts of the psyche--emotional surges, violent urges, thoughts or desires wrestling with each other, dogpiling, digging into those piles, covering themselves up. Two people loll together luxuriously before a chorus (Greek? Catholic? Puritan?) rushes at them with snapping fingers. A woman (Psyche herself?) spins the others like coats on the motorized rack at the dry cleaners.

Local choreographer Robin Stiehm's premiere, "Just Looking," is cool and jazzy, with lots of loopy arm movements, but it lacks a center in its hodgepodge of movements. One thing is a sure bet: Maginnis and Gregory Waletski in New Yorker Llory Wilson's "Davenport Memoirs" (1993). (Camille LeFevre)

Zenon's fall concert will be performed Nov. 9-12 at Hennepin Center for the Arts; 338-1101.

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