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Solos capture Schulkind's career

CAMBRIDGE -- In modern dance, less is often so much more. A thoughtfully conceived and well-crafted solo can have more power, excitement, and personal connection than pieces packed with a stage full of dancers.

For nearly 30 years, Marcus Schulkind has choreographed solo dances that not only catch the eye and tease the brain but touch the heart. In sold-out concerts last weekend to benefit Green Street Studios, the veteran choreographer brought together some of the most illustrious interpreters of his work for a program that spans his impressive career.

Even in the evening's earliest work, the 1977 ''Job" (given an excellent performance by Kate Digby), Schulkind's aesthetic is blazingly clear: clean, classical lines, mercurial shifts in weight and dynamics, the fluid play of tension and release, phrases that are muscular yet impeccably controlled. Variety comes most obviously through Schulkind's eclectic musicality. The choreographer uses a wide range of music respectfully and with thorough appreciation for not just mood but structure and form. On a deeper level, however, Schulkind's dances are distinguished by the details that impart character and emotion. These details signal immediately that the dancers are not just malleable bodies, but human beings.

The most memorable solos were the most recent ones. In the vivid new ''Courting the Hippogriff," there was something distinctly equine in Elizabeth Waterhouse's carriage, from the regal, upright posture mid prance, leg bent and toe pointed, to the playful duck of the head, like a horse gently nudging its owner. But there was just as surely a little birdlike effect as well, with furtive little skitters, and arms that stretched and curved or curled in on themselves. There was nothing the least bit literal, yet it was gorgeously evocative and stunningly performed.

The 2002 ''Let Bygones Be," dedicated to Schulkind's late father, was enough to break your heart. Lorraine Chapman was riveting in euphoric bursts of balletic glee, expressive hands and arms like molten metal above brilliantly crisp footwork. Yet contrasts in the music just as quickly stilled the busy pace, plunging the dancer into moments of poignant reflection, her face cast upward as if straining to see, straining to understand.

Similarly, Ruth Shiman-Hackett seemed to breathe an air of melancholy through liquid, lyrical suspensions broken by brief flurries of blistering turns. Nicole Pierce did a terrific job as the down-and-out worker in an excerpt from ''Triptych," set to ''Brother Can You Spare a Dime." As the evening's lone male performer, Clarence Brooks was a model of strength and resilience, folding to the floor and rising again and again in an excerpt from ''Through a Glass Darkly."

Special guest Jeanine Durning not only gave a committed performance of Schulkind's ''Cradle Song," but danced a world premiere of her own: the dark, viscerally powerful ''Dissolve." The evening's sole disappointment was the cancellation, due to dancer injury, of a brand-new work dedicated to the late Julie Ince Thompson.

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