Like Laurel and Hardy or Penn and Teller, the dance duo of Cynthia Thompson and Kate Trammell makes the most of its members' contrasting looks and natures. Whereas Thompson is tall and fair, Trammell is short and dark. Thompson's face reveals all; Trammell exudes mystery. When the two women share a stage, even their more abstract works benefit from their differences.
What Thompson and Trammell have in common is their ability to make the most of each step, and a genuine versatility. Both faculty members at James Madison University (though Trammell has just returned from a three-year leave, during which time she performed as a member of Philadelphia's acclaimed ZeroMoving Dance Company), they also have a gift for choreographing accessible, often amusing dances both in tandem and individually. In the six years since they formed their partnership, they've performed dances populated by nuns wielding croquet mallets and a crazed werewolf, and more serious pieces about kinship and the fear of motherhood.
This weekend, the duo will team up with seven other dancers to present a program of original duets and group works, plus a quartet by guest choreographer Shane O'Hara and a new commissioned work by veteran Washington dance-maker Meriam Rosen. Noted harmonica player Gary Green and composer, electric guitarist and vocalist Jonathan Romeo -- a longtime collaborator who even played a monk to their loony nuns -- will no doubt make the proceedings even more beguiling.