Correction: A previous version of this article misidentified the school where Tzveta Kassabova teaches. She is a dance instructor at the University of Florida. This version has been updated.
“Little is left to tell,” a new work by a University of Florida dance professor, begins like a lot of campus-created performances: with androgynous young performers rolling around on the floor. But then, for something totally different, the three dancers tear up the floor covering and start carrying it around.
This unorthodox start boded well for Saturday night’s performance at Dance Place, which featured two works by Bulgarian-born choreographer Tzveta Kassabova, who recently decamped to Florida, and one by recent University of Maryland MFA graduate Nathan Andary. Unfortunately, the only groundbreaking dancing happened in the opener.
Samuel Beckett, a 20th century Irish writer, provided the inspiration for “Little is left to tell.” That line closes his short play “The Ohio Impromptu,” but the dance piece also brilliantly evoked Beckett’s “Krapp’s Last Tape,” “Happy Days” and the writer’s general absurdist, Sisyphean ethos. Dancers lugged their sections of canvas as if each weighed a ton. Steve Wanna, a local composer, crafted a soundtrack that was a mix of Beckett texts and percussive noise. A knock would sound, lights would dim, and each time the stage was re-illuminated, the dancers had assumed a different position, sometimes echoing the set of “Happy Days,” which finds the protagonist buried up to her neck. The two female dancers mostly worked either in unison or repeating simple phrases while a very watchable Joey Loto kept twisting his rubberized torso and thrusting his limbs at angles that shouldn’t be possible.
Kassabova’s second contribution, “Be Well,” was essentially a solo featuring her swirling around in a long white skirt. The piece was set to an Arvo Part violin sonata that is frustratingly overused — Pilobus, TAKEDance and many ballet companies dance to it. That said, Kassabova is probably the first choreographer to juxtapose the soothing music with the anguish of a mental patient. When she paused, it was to mutter incoherently and touch herself.
The program closed with Andary’s “Going Viral.” Six brave collegiate-aged dancers wearing unflattering brown-and-white bodysuits spent most of the piece either contorting themselves into awkward yoga poses or thrashing about. Props to them, and lots of ibuprofen.