Choreographer Anna Myer's dances build slowly and steadily to dramatic climaxes. In performances at the Institute of Contemporary Art this week, Myer celebrates her company's 15th anniversary and her own steady growth as an artist. The program includes three pieces: two world premieres and one of her all-time best works, 2004 's "All at Once ." All three showcase Myer's signature style, her strong visual sense, and her versatility.
On Thursday, the evening opened with the world premiere of "Penumbra ," commissioned by CRASHarts, which is presenting the performances. Solo cellist Leo Eguchi performed a series of Bach cello pieces, repeated as framing devices for a work that ultimately opened up to explore differences in size, space, and speed.
Myer has long been known for creating works that cross genera tional lines, and she has set "Penumbra" on six adult dancers and 10 children. "Penumbra," a word formed from the Latin roots for "almost " and "shadow ," opened with a ritualistic presentation of neon light wands -- created by local artists Alejandro and Moira Sina -- that lit up when placed in position upstage. In a nod toward classical ballet, each of the adult dancers genuflected to the children before moving into Myer's fluid combinations of geometric patterns.
There was a striking juxtaposition between the adult dancers' broad, angular moves and the stillness and sleek, simple movements of the children. As the piece built in intensity, Myer explored the push-pull between adult and child dancers and vertical movements as the adults lifted the children up and across the stage. The climax came with groups of three and then two dancing in tight unison, until, with a lovely gesture, it appeared that the children repaired the hearts of the adults.
"Penumbra" is, as its title suggests, filled with light and shadow, but the piece feels like it could use a bit of tightening before it can deliver the impact Myer is clearly going for.
The second half of the evening opened with another world premiere, "Uguale Ma Diverso" (which translates loosely from Italian as "Variations"): a sensual pas de trois for dancers James Brown , Carol Somers , and Myer. With Roberto Cassan playing accordion, they danced first to the sexy tango "Viente Anos " (featured on "Buena Vista Social Club ") and then the jazzy "Bebe," starting with loose, open arm movements before slouching together and sliding to the floor and back up again as a comment on connecting and disconnecting.
The final piece was Myer's emotionally rich "All at Once ," with nine dancers and 12 musicians on violins, cello, and bass, playing an original composition by Jakov Jakoulov , conducted by Susan Davenny Wyner . Jakoulov's score is mysterious and entrancing, and Myer's dancers punctuated the moody melody with exquisite combinations.
The real beauty of this piece is Myer's playful integration of her dancers' movements with the bowing of the string players. At first the space looked jumbled, with dancers moving dangerously close to the musicians, but as the dancers performed ballet-like extensions, the movements were echoed in the instruments. As the dancers swooped toward the musicians, crawled between and spun around them, the musicians became an elegant component of the dance.
In an evening rich in imagination and musicality, Myer proved she is a creative force to be reckoned with.