At a time when postmodern dance is losing its impetus and much of what is optimistically called "new dance" seems nothing of the sort, Randy Warshaw's intricate and intelligent choreography is especially welcome. Warshaw worked with Steve Paxton before joining Trisha Brown's company, where he was a principal dancer for seven years. His roots in improvisation, and particularly contact improvisation, are deep, and it shows.
There was a sense of wonder and curiosity in the two works performed by the Randy Warshaw Dance Company at Dance Place on Saturday. Warshaw explores the connections between movements, seeing where two men end up if one grabs the other by an extended leg and both change directions, for example, or what it looks like if two women of disparate height perform the same movements with their bodies turned at slightly different angles. But there's nothing dry about his dances, and nothing careless about them either. Each was nearly an hour long, and one could become impatient about two-thirds of the way through because it was not obvious -- at first viewing at least -- where Warshaw was headed. But it was always obvious that he knew, that he wasn't just fooling around.
Though both dances are different in texture, look, sound and feel, it's evident that they are children of the same creative vision. The four women and three men -- all superb dancers -- were tireless and serene. Personable machines, they neither lost nor gained energy; they barely seemed to breathe. For the most part, their faces were as impassive as their bodies were expressive, but scattered throughout both dances were isolated choreographed spats, islands of tension in a sea of calm.
"Event Horizon" is set to a commissioned score by Trio Bravo and John King that is at times pleasantly dancey, at times as grating as a buzz saw. Warshaw's choreography is extremely musical, reacting to phrasing and pulse in a symbiotic rather than note-for-note way. It's clear the dancers listen to the music, but they dance around and through it, rather than to it directly. The seven dancers, dressed in Kay Stuntz's individualized, brightly colored costumes that catch the light, formed unemotional partnerships, irrespective of gender, that seemed to exist simply for acrobatic convenience. Throw me. Catch me. Roll me down your back. In between, they performed snappy movements, like side-to-side jumps, or quick turns, as though trying to shake free of the contact. Like their musicality, the dancers' relationships were implied. They were workers sharing a space, seldom looking at each other except for those few, intensely combative duets danced in private, after the other dancers had discreetly withdrawn.
If the gritty "Event Horizon" captures urban tensions, "Fragile Anchor" is its antidote, a dance by novitiates at a retreat. Set to Andy Tierstein's gentle "Quartet for Strings and Marimba," also commissioned, and danced by three women and three men dressed in Mariatheresa Grilli's white and gold pajamas of various cuts, "Fragile Anchor" is a dreamy, seamless concoction. It's both porous and structured, like a loosely woven scarf. The dance has its own impetus; movements generate movements, and the dancing is fluid and taut.
Warshaw, who never tries to hog the limelight as a dancer, nevertheless provided most of the work's tension. Like a renegade monk, he was more physical than the others, more intense, almost angry, and less detached. Standing in the wings waiting for his cue, he watched the performance with his eyes closed, moving his head to the music and the movements. The other excellent dancers were Susan Blankensop, Allyson Green, Jennifer Lacey, Jeff Lepore, Jose Navas and Meg Stuart.