A wide-angle look at America's dance scene - all at once

The dance community recently joined forces at the New York State Theater to provide a rare look at a broad spectrum of American dance all at one time. Thirteen ballet and modern dance companies offered pieces from their repertories in an unprecedented ``Dancing for Life'' fund-raiser for AIDS-related causes that produced some $1.4 million, according to Mikhail Baryshnikov's opening remarks. In addition to the evening's performers, dancers from 60 companies donated their evening's salaries to the Dancing for Life National Fund. Mostly excerpts from larger works, the dances were put together in a smoothly oiled program by artistic coordinator Jerome Robbins. They afforded some unexpected insights. For one thing, the program seemed very much an ensemble affair, with hardly any spectacular solo dancing. The only grand-manner virtuoso showcase, though not the only classical ballet, was the New York City Ballet's ``Divertimento No. 15'' (the theme-and-variations section).

The only other fireworks were ignited by an anti-ballet, the finale of Paul Taylor's ``Esplanade,'' with the dancers sliding and slamming to the floor accompanied by Bach. And the only other virtuoso performance was given by modern dancer Dudley Williams, whose commitment and exquisite phrasing made Alvin Ailey's pop solo ``A Song for You'' seem a personal gift to each person in the audience.

Elsewhere, the program had a certain sameness. But the curtailing of each individual presentation to about 10 minutes made for a fast-moving, never boring, 2-hour show, although it didn't allow most of the pieces to develop their own intensities.

Even the one longer offering, American Ballet Theater's ``Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes'' - a preview of a new Mark Morris piece to variations on American 19th-century parlor music by Virgil Thomson - had a bland neatness, and Baryshnikov and ABT ballerina Martine van Hamel blended into the gang like good soldiers.

The only dance on the program that hinted at a social theme was Lar Lubovitch's beautiful duet from ``Concerto Six Twenty-Two'' (Mozart), portraying friendship and loss, dependency, fear, and ease in a relationship between two men. But when the evening ended with the last movement of Balanchine's ``Symphony in C,'' the term AIDS had never been mentioned once.

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