News your connection to The Boston Globe

Agility, but not enough heart

The intense, propulsive dances of Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato catch your breath -- but often fail to release it, leaving you struggling for air.

It's not that his arrangements of hurling bodies -- arms breaking into wings here, palms shuddering like fans there, a library of splintered movement in between -- don't astound with their speed and agility. His Compañí a Nacional de Danza 2 comprises 14 vibrant dancers, ages 18 to 21, who are blessed with apparently limitless energy and passion, as well as a rigorous classical technique infused with a panoply of modern idioms. It's just that the execution of the dances -- overflowing with nonstop permutations -- takes precedence over their heart.

The most effective of the three works the Bank of America Celebrity Series presented over the weekend was the most abstract: "Remansos" -- a piece for six Duato created for American Ballet Theatre in 1997 but later revised -- is about the spatial constructs of dancing.

Set to the piano music of composer Enrique Granados , it's cracked into four parts and offset by two props: a square panel that serves as much as backdrop as jungle gym, and a single rose, plopped in a vase, grasped in a hand or behind a knee, and even clenched between teeth. Geometry prevails in this playground of duets and trios. "Remansos" is a compendium of pedaling feet, flexed hands, and palm-slapped thighs, and cookie-cutter shapes in space. Wide, glorious leaps resolve in two striking motifs: a two-dimensional pose reminiscent of Nijinsky's "Afternoon of a Faun" and faces held gently in the dancers' hands. The piece is refreshingly inventive, and musical -- though occasionally it tips into step-for-note copycat phrasing.

The full - company "Coming Together" sprang from Frederic Rzewski's driving, repetitive score "Coming Together/Attica." The text -- "I am in excellent physical and emotional health" -- came from a letter by Sam Melville , a political prisoner killed in the 1971 Attica prison riots. Melville's words are spliced and shuffled, at once belying and confirming the fate of their author. The dancers' steps, some executed on point, erupt like firecrackers: arms pinwheel, sucked-in guts spark legs clacking in midair. Men with letters on their chests careen around the stage, at the end lining up to spell "I Think" before women shove them back. It's as if they're dashing out the light of intellect.

The least effective was the Haitian -inspired "R assemblement," set to music by Toto Bissainthe that includes a mix of slave songs from voodoo followers. It's meant to be a testament to liberty and resistance . But the depiction is just too literal to ring true.