A year has passed since Vital Sign had its company debut at Dance Place. At that time it also unveiled a concept--the integration of dance with sign language--whose potential is enormous. American Sign Language uses movement to express meaning both syntactically and creatively; dance strives to convey aesthetic meaning through creative movement. A marriage of the two could eventually spawn a persuasive new art form.

In the real world, these things take time. Some of the more exciting elements of last year's concert were missing from Friday evening's sparsely attended return to Dance Place. Director and principal dancer Kimberley Hofe is no longer collating the diverse contributions of her many student friends, and is instead choreographing everything. The atmosphere of enthusiastic experimentation has mellowed, and a more crafted, acrobatic style has been pursued. Signing is still sprinkled liberally through the works, and an interpreter is often used.

Least successful were the didactic narrated pieces focusing on the politics of deafness. In three of the program's offerings Victoria Francese read excerpts from Ben Behan's "American Deaf Culture: An Anthology." These amounted to somewhat shrill polemics, often dabbed with fuzzy logic or limp humor, that failed on their artistic merits alone.

"When Two Became One" showcased some technical improvements, especially evident in the extended lift sequence that opened the piece. Evan Davidson provided a shifting pedestal upon which Hofe's lithe, expressive body performed an impressive array of contortions and control moves. Hofe's solo in "Shade," eulogizing the final struggles of a sick friend, cast better light on the intense choreographic movement style she is attempting to cultivate.