Opening Nights: Co-LAB 5

Co-LAB 5

Erickson Theatre Off Broadway, 1524 Harvard Ave., $10–$20. 8 p.m. Fri.–Sat. Ends May 11.

Back in the early days of modern dance, choreographers ruled the system. Obsessed by the task of creating their own unique approach, they required dancers loyal only to them—more acolytes than independent artists. Almost a century later, the paradigm has well and truly flipped. Coriolis Dance Collective, which is marking its fifth anniversary, began its life as a cadre of performers who wanted to choose what they were dancing, rather than the other way around.

The choices made for this program show the breadth of contemporary training, the smorgasbord of styles that is standard issue today. Indeed, in some cases the dance skills are more polished than the works used to display them. The brief excerpt from Natascha Greenwalt Murphy’s Tethered Apparitions made more sense in its original context. As a fragment, it’s a romantic tangle for Murphy and Danny Boulet, but we’re left wondering what lies beyond the interlaced partnering.

In contrast, Christin Call has stuffed her new The gentle abduction of Esther Williams with a toy chest full of ideas. She performs in front of a slideshow featuring twisted versions of inspirational posters, with skewed mottos attributed to film stars. (Gene Kelly advises us to “Do something wrong and see what happens.”) For the score, composer Jackie An runs through a stream-of-consciousness monologue about a time-traveling Williams seeking a life beyond synchronized-swimming movies. Amid all this hubbub, it takes some concentration to follow Call in a fluffy jacket and a fuchsia bathing cap, her prehensile locomotion making her look like an exotic bird.

Andrea Larreta takes a different approach to text in Depicting Verbs, as she tries to extend American Sign Language gestures into full-body activity. Rather than using the material to tell an actual story, as choreographers like Pat Graney have done, she seems to be working with the energy and rhythm of the original gestures.

There are three more revivals on the program: Along with Lauren Edson’s flirty Real Gone and a elegant expansion of Zoe Scofield’s when we were young II, Rainbow Fletcher’s Deciduous Urge closes the show. Fletcher often makes work for the Can Can Cabaret, where the stage is so small that her artists excel at dancing in place. Even here in a larger space, she still translates the intensity of close quarters into a disturbing world, where costumes are a combination of balaclava masks and bathing suits, her dancers disguised and exposed all at once.

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