Liz Lerman has long maintained that just about anyone can get, and give, pleasure through dancing, and her Dancers of the Third Age substantiate her theory. This troupe of dancing seniors, whose oldest member turns 91 today, kicked off a two-week season of performances by the Dance Exchange at Dance Place on Friday, with a program that combined a 45-minute lecture demonstration with three dances in which the Third Agers appeared with members of Lerman's other, more conventional company, Liz Lerman/Exchange.
At its best, Lerman's choreography uses both senior and younger performers to produce works of extraordinary poignancy. In two of her "Sketches From Memory" -- "War Bride: When It Was Good" and "Goodbyes: A Visit to His Father" -- the mixing is seamless. In the former, Jessica Rea, a Third Ager, dances a duet with her remembered husband (Jeff Bliss, a dancer about half her age). In the latter, Don Zuckerman is son to Seymour Rosen's dying father, and their brief, extremely moving duet-mime scene defines their relationship from childhood romps to the final, literal letting go.
The dancers in "Still Crossing," a piece commissioned for the Statue of Liberty Centennial celebrations, are as mixed in age and movement styles as befits immigrants on the perilous passage to the New World. Danced to a sweetly repetitive score by Mark Isham and Teddy Klaus, the blue-clad dancers move back and forth slowly, relentlessly and rhythmically as the waves, sometimes blinded, sometimes groping, but always pressing forward. Lerman's choreography captures perfectly the eternal, optimistic uncertainty of the American immigrant.
The lecture-demonstration that opened the program is the Third Agers' standard show for schools and hospitals, but apparently a new part of the company's theatrical presentations. Narrated by Zuckerman (the company's director) with a great deal of charm, it's exemplary as a lecture and demonstration, introducing the dancers, showing how a dance is constructed and how it can be varied and, finally, providing some improvisation, in which about half the audience took part happily. But in a theatrical context, before an audience that already knows how to touch its toes and play snow statues, perhaps it might be best to just let the Dancers of the Third Age dance.