It can be love at first sight. Cathy Paine looks like one of Charlie Chaplin's waifs. Her dances catch you off guard by their ease. It can also be loathing the second time around, because the thing on which Paine insists, to the exclusion of all else, is cleverness.
Every one of the pieces presented by Cathy Paine & Friend(s) at Dance Place yesterday (and again tonight) is, at its core, a charade. Attempts to think of these works as fantasies, fables, farces or anything else are doomed to fail; they are too singularly smart-alecky.
"Yesterday," Paine's signature solo, is a lazy dancer's diary. "Bedtime Story" asks if the working girl dreams of the storybook princess or whether it's the other way around. "Swan Song" juxtaposes the Dying Swan with litter, and would be a good television ad for waste recycling. "Brake" makes two women in elegant ball gowns look silly by having them execute incongruous movements; when at last they begin to Vienna waltz, they still look silly because the manner is caricatured. "Patch" sews together two not dissimilar styles, ragtime and country. "Cat's Cradle" imitates a dancer on a leash, a mountain climber with a rope.
It would be easy to give these pieces extra dimension. Paine has a lithe, well-trained body. So does the other performer on the program, Helen Hayes. The choreography ranges over a vast territory of movement. Yet there is such a deemphasis of technique -- steps are doled out rather frugally and performed so casually, one can only conclude that Paine has made anti-suggestion into a cult. Her works are the ultimate one-liners.