We've all seen animal imitations: hoot and scratch your armpits and you're a monkey scrape back your feet, snort and charge and it's bullfight time. Well, avant-garde dancer Simone Forte and musician Peter Van Riper offer considerably more realistic (and respectful) impressions than the average charade player. Their current collaborative effort, "Jackdaw Songs," performed last weekend at the Washington Project for the Arts, succeeded in conjuring an incredibly evocative landscape of birds and woods, wind and calm, solely by means of subtle movement patterns and haunting sounds from a collection of saxophones and assorted instruments.
The evening unfurled easily, carefully, with each artist filling the space with a piece of this imaginary environment, then making way for the other's contribution. Van Riper sent out a high-pitched whistle from backstage, followed by a cascade of saxproduced chirps and caws that he managed to execute while spinning. Then Forti, that inscrutable, loose-limbed legend of post-modern experimentation, eased into a weight-conscious crawl on all fours, or a measured, flat-footed walk, or a beautiful roll that left her resting on the crown of her head, her knees, her hips.
The eerie vibrations, the long blasts and moans, the stick clenched in Forti's teeth, manic heavings of her chest and shoulders that made one think: "Flight!" -- these images, movements, musics went beyond their makers and into a realm of sky and dust and flutters and paws.