It's tempting, when watching performers improvise, to focus on how they transform what they've been given -- be it a theme or a set of instructions. Resist that temptation and concentrate on the choices they make without prompting and you're likely to discover an entirely different family of freedoms and limitations.
At the Dance Place Friday night, Improvisations Unlimited shared with the audience the directions given the dancers for all of the exercise sets and some of the more formal compositions on the program. Quick thinking, quick learning and a dash of chutzpah on the part of company members made for spatial variety and dynamic spice in many of the pieces.
Nothing in the instructions, however, prescribed the basic quality of the movement to be used, and so it was surprising to see so much textural uniformity of motion. There was little dancing in the technical sense. Rather, the performers preferred to be casual or, at their most flamboyant, athletic.
Also unmentioned in the directions -- some cryptic, others matter-of-fact -- was the choice of mood. Jeff Duncan's "Ceremonies" was as eerie as a dream, yet, as performed by the company's three men, it seemed extremely energetic. A six-dancer work by company director Meriam Rosen was eerie too at first but had an unresolved romantic ending; the piece was appropriately named "Unfinished Business."
Dan Wagoner's "Some Occasions for a Few Boxing Gestures" alternated funny and unfunny sections. The latter were presumably meant to be lyric or dramatic but didn't really achieve a mood, perhaps because of poor timing.
Most varied in atmosphere was the last piece, "Where Now, When Now?" by Don Redlich. In this instance it was clearly the Luciano Berio music that determined the kaleidoscope of moods, whereas in the preceding works, feeling or its lack may have evolved from movement.