The secret terrors embedded in memory, those that can instantly shatter the spirit at their recall, are the subject of choreographer Meriam Rosen's moving new work "Looking Back." The dance, given its Washington area premiere last night by Improvisations Unlimited, is set to Robert Schumann's "Kinderscenen," which provides a bittersweet foil to the dread that is depicted.

Rosen employs the simplest movement vocabulary -- stamping, swaying and gesturing -- in formal configurations to conjure the most volatile of emotions. Created from material contributed by performers Stephanie Ginger Butler, Darryl S. Thomas and Heather Walker, the dance employs snatches of movement and text to suggest anguished recollections -- childhood beatings, humiliations, the sense of not belonging. In its rough jags of repetitive gestures and stammering rhythms, the dance hiccups and sobs like a stricken child.

"Looking Back" is as far from the self-conscious and parodistic vision of much contemporary choreography as is possible. Its unabashedly plain and open presentation is also a hallmark of the other works on this program -- Jeff Duncan's exhilarating "Ceremonies" and Jerry Pearson's hypnotic "Zen Exercises for Limbs and Pins," and in particular, the improvisational sets known as "The Process." The program will be repeated through Saturday.