Stepping into the footprints of giants, the students gave a fine account of this work, especially Andrew Trego as the suave and insinuating Iago and Evelyn Toh as the playful, malicious Emilia. By the way, Limón didn't give his characters their stage names. He designated them as archetypes: "The Moor," "His Friend," and so forth. They all begin with dignity, and they're all destroyed in the end.
The weekend's program at the Conservatory also included the premieres of Parren Ballard's Radian, a showpiece for academic ballet steps with unexpected realignments, and Foil, by Conservatory graduate Thang Dao. Dao's work was a string of actions and accompaniments that I thought were meant to be zany until I read the high-minded program note.
Doug Varone, whose company was presented by CRASHarts, came up through the Limón lineage, and he's kept the sense that dancing is an aspect of the life we all lead. Each of the 20 installments of Chapters from a Broken Novel was triggered by a provocative phrase Varone heard or read or saw. The "chapters" consist of dances for the seven-member ensemble and smaller, more intimate scenes. The novel seems to have no plot; the chapters probably can be performed in any order or combination. By the end of the 90-minute work, the dancers have emerged as distinct individuals.
Chapters began at high energy ("Spilling the Contents"), with all the dancers running, falling, rolling, spiraling through the space. Frequently they were all doing different movements, but then with a sudden whoosh, clumps of them would dive to the floor in the same direction. Or the swirling frenzy would momentarily even out into neat line-ups. I realized that there was a sense of design in this all along, and that it was coming from an almost hidden musicality. All the dancers were following some level of David Van Tieghem's dense synthesizer music, so even when the stage looked chaotic, it felt rhythmically organized.
From there, the dance went on to cover a big range of energies and episodes, from snapshots (in "Funeral," Eddie Taketa takes the whole of a two-minute piece of music to get up from the floor to standing) to extended love stories (in "Égalité," Julia Burrer and Natalie Desch dance around each other with soft, encircling arms, and after an embrace, they settle down face to face, walking on their knees, while you hear women's voices chatting comfortably in the background).
Jane Cox's lighting was an equal partner with Van Tieghem's rich score in giving the piece variety and dramatic texture. Alex Springer staggered in the dark as spotlights stabbed through the space ("Target Practice"). I wasn't sure whether he was trying to get into the light or avoid it. Erin Owen's bathroom regimen spun out into a raucous pink disco fantasy in "Tile Riot."
In several scenes, persons tried to make contact with partners and were impeded by their own physical resistance — bad timing, a locked knee — or were pulled away by other persons. To a Latin rhythm, Springer and Ryan Corriston tentatively began dancing together ("Men"). Taketa appeared and cut in. The three then engaged in an amiable dance of partner switching that ended in a dancing triumvirate. I loved the way the men underplayed a situation that could easily have slid into camp.