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DANCE REVIEW

Elegantly ranging from pleasure to pain

As befits one of Boston's most venerable modern-dance troupes, Prometheus Dance's ''Solace," an evening of five premieres, embraced both the innocence of youth and the graceful wisdom of maturity.

Tommy Neblett's ''Far Fairer Hope," which opened the program Thursday night, is a pastoral abstract dance for four women that suggests sweet simplicity. Set to the adagio of Schubert's String Quintet in C major, it is full of sweeping lyricism, with long-lined balletic turns and extensions softened by elegantly curved arms. It's unabashedly pretty, which is rare for Prometheus.

But just underneath the glowing patina is an air of melancholy that gives the work depth -- an arm draped consolingly over a shoulder, a cheek pressed to a bare back, two women nestling side by side, as if asleep. The dancers come together in lines that quickly dissolve into individual patterns, injecting an unsettled quality. And one dancer is often cast apart from the others, as if enduring some private pain.

On the other end of the spectrum, ''Solace" is an exquisite study of the dynamics of mature friendship, choreographed by Neblett and his co-artistic director, Diane Arvanites-Noya, for themselves and Andy Taylor-Blenis and Bryan Steele (the latter returning as guest artist). The four are interconnected, with fluid partnerships forming, changing, then re-forming. They come together as a group, arms gently cradling, supporting, and lifting with the gentle, trusting shifts of weight characteristic of contact improvisation. Then they spin apart, only to be drawn back in. It is both poignant and playful, the only misstep being a melodramatic song in the cobbled-together score that makes the piece too long and serves to overstate what should remain unspoken.

''The Queens' Spectre" unfolds as a kind of game of musical chairs, with four dancers in fur-trimmed velvet coats using high-backed chairs as platforms, ladders, and pedestals. At one point, the rungs of the chairs become the bars of a cage. Flipped over, they become a stairway. The piece is provocative and visually arresting but never really seems to go anywhere.

Strikingly set amid a grove of trees and rocks to an eerie electronic score by David Corter, ''Wreckage" is a study in desolation. Arvanites-Noya and Neblett dance on, around, and under a park bench, rolling, writhing, and touching, each intersection freighted with loss, despair, anger, and ennui. The shifts between controlled, almost clenched gestures and bursts of raw energy are riveting. But most haunting are the phrases of repetitive movements that suggest a kind of numb survival mechanism; they are simply carrying on.

The evening's big group work is the vivid ''Crazy Girl," an ode to rural working women. Buckets, washtubs, and trash cans are their tools. The images are compelling -- the women in slow procession with buckets balanced on their heads or standing on trash cans as pedestals, folk dance moves that seem to buckle under bowed backs, shoulders shrugging, heads flung side to side. But the best parts are when the octet cuts loose, as in the vigorously athletic romp set to the song ''What You Talkin' About." The high kicks, sprightly jumps, lifts, and flat-out runs suggest a vibrant communal spirit in the midst of the daily grind.

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