It's hard not to like a dance company that calls itself Bob & Bob. The two Bobs--John Evans and Shane O'Hara, both university faculty members (the former at Rutgers, the latter at James Madison)--formed their duet company last year. They intend to have fun while dancing. And they do. At the University of Maryland's Dorothy Madden Theater Friday evening, the pair presented works that mostly demonstrated the lighter side of modern dance.
"Nordic Man," O'Hara's opening solo, relied on a visual gag. Clad in Viking garb, he worked a NordicTrack machine, arms and legs pumping, his torso dipping and arcing into playfully ironic poses. In "The Exchange," the two Bobs vied for each other's throats, competing to see who would come out on top. O'Hara put a fist into Evans's back. The two choked each other but reconciled in an awkward waltz. Mitchell Mercurio designed a frothy collage of lounge music and street sounds to egg the guys to their finish.
"The Lure" started where "The Exchange" left off. Instead of business attire, this time they wore fishing gear credited to Wal-Mart, and the soundtrack consisted of Leonard Cohen and a TV fishing show (really). Guys will be guys, and these two tumbled and bumped, rolled and butted against one another in an easy take on the dance duet.
Although a sextet, Evans's "I Awoke Gasping" scans like a duet for three couples. The pairs--undergraduate and graduate dance students at the University of Maryland--allowed themselves to be enveloped in Evans's liquid movements--languid lunges, deep scoops, silky turns. They also managed the quick, breathy catches and tiptoe walks with ease.
University of Maryland dance professor Meriam Rosen hadn't performed onstage in two decades; O'Hara created the perfect work to coax her from retirement. "Locked In" derives from Jean-Dominique Bauby's book "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," detailing the author's observations following a brain stem injury that left him paralyzed except for the ability to blink his left eye.
Rosen, clad entirely in white, her face stonelike in its stillness, maintained subtle power and dignity. Her movements were the simplest: fists clenched, an arm sweeping open, palms brushing down thighs, the cock of the head, a few steps. But, when rendered along with Rene Auberjunois's reading from the book, they carried intensely poignant meaning. Rosen's body danced to unlock the spirit of a speechless, motionless person, a touching portrait of determination in the face of adversity.