Two Vogue Shows Strike Art-World Poses

Two Vogue Shows Strike Art-World Poses

On the front of the stage floor, laid out in tape, was a spiral of straight lines and right angles; further back was a grid. Both designs derive from the third part, the so-called black part, of Schlemmer’s work, as did most of Kyle Luu’s glamorous costumes, distinguished from the original designs mainly by more sparkle and less boldness.

Like Mr. Newsome, Ms. LaBeija (in the program note) pays lip service to the virtues of improvisation, but high-level improvisation is as rigorous a discipline as choreography, and much of “Untitled,” mixing bits of vogue with shallow borrowings from ballet and other forms, lacked sustaining power. Each section had an idea — one performer walking out of the spiral maze, two facing off as a mirrored pair — that was like a shell with too little inside it.

One partial exception was a late solo for Ms. LaBeija, accompanied by her father, Warren Benbow, on drums. Mr. Benbow, a veteran musician, understands improvisation, and as he worked up a brilliant abstraction of stripper music, Ms. LaBeija’s charisma emerged most fully. She reminded me of a young Josephine Baker.

It was significant, too, that at this point Ms. LaBeija had shed her elaborate costume for a simple corset-like affair, and had pushed the other elaborately costumed dancers offstage. Already, she had been pulling up strips of tape, and as the others returned in rehearsal attire, they helped her finish the cleanup job.

“Untitled” became a communal ritual. Ms. LaBeija elegantly unrolled a strip of tape toward the exit, a path that she and then her dancers followed. From a spiral labyrinth and an urban grid, she had created not a tangle but an illuminated line: an escape route, perhaps, on a journey that was personal but did not exclude others. This shape was moving, even if “Untitled” didn’t do justice to vogueing as dance.

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