Clogging in Maine; Maine-ly dance
As a vacation spot for thousands of outsiders, Maine is full of imported artistry in the summertime. Unfortunately, some of the time the actors, dancers , and singers who congregate take a rather vacationlike attitude toward their presentations, and the product suffers.
On the other hand, Maine's resident artists and traditional folk arts come to full bloom at the same time, and they are a delight to see. This striking contrast was plain recently, when I visited two disparate dance events: the Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston and ''Old Home Days'' in Harrison.
The Bates Dance Festival is an admirable idea. In its second year, the festival draws young dancers from across the country for three weeks of intensive classes held by top dancers amid the glories of summertime Maine. In return, the invited professionals put on performances open to the community.
But unfortunately the gala performance July 12 at Schaefer Theatre became a vehicle for star performers' self-indulgence.
A better title for ''Touch Me'' - Christian Holder's (of Joffrey Ballet fame) black spiritual which saw Holder don a flowing white skirt - might have been ''How Many Ways Can I Swirl This Skirt?'' Worse, though, was Ze'eva Cohen's ''Mothers of Israel,'' a piece so inward that very little was communicated.
But the spirit of dance was revived the next evening when I stumbled upon ''Old Home Days'' in Harrison - you know, the guys from the Lions Club cooking fried chicken, the Ferris wheel, and kids running everywhere. Here, upon a broad wooden stage and in front of farmers in lawn chairs, was displayed some of the snazziest and most spirited dancing I've seen in months.
It's clogging - a countrified forerunner of tap-dancing - set to swinging string-band music. The first group - the Sweet Grass Cloggers - ranged from two tykes whose legs were popping faster than popcorn at full speed, to a bearded, smiling gentleman who led the group. On their heels came the Starlight Cloggers, whose spinning, dazzling version of funk group Earth, Wind, and Fire's ''Faces'' put disco to shame. Last, but certainly not least, were the Flatland Cloggers, whose dancing was so good we followed them down to the local Grange hall for a post-performance show.