Red Thread, which had its world premiere Friday at the Performance Garage, is a rich and complex collaborative piece that combines old-school avant-garde modern dance with moments of great tenderness and laugh-out-loud humor.
It does all this via six superb dancers plus “sound selections” by artists ranging from J.S. Bach to Missy Elliott, Michael Gordon, and Mouse on Mars.
This was a rare opportunity to see three former members of the groundbreaking Trisha Brown Dance Company work together again after nearly 30 years. Eva Karczag, now of the Netherlands; Vicky Shick of New York; and Philadelphia’s Lisa Kraus are still commanding theatrical presences. It was a pleasure to observe their exquisitely subtle, focused movement, based on deceptively ordinary-seeming gestures. And it was fascinating to see them interact with Meg Foley, Gabrielle Revlock, and Michele Tantoco, outstanding local dancers in their 20s whom the older trio had invited to collaborate.
Aside from the age gap, there were instructive differences in expressions (veterans deadpan, their younger counterparts likely to smile) and movement styles. But the unison passages were impressive, and there was ample chance for each dancer to demonstrate individualism.
Made up of short segments separated by blackouts, Red Thread seemed mainly about connections, among women, and dancers. Program notes stressed the importance of passing movement to the next generation.
The specific image of red thread (with parallels to blood vessels, and Kraus’ printed comments about the multigenerational quilters of Gee’s Bend, Ala.) is reflected in the yarn the younger women manipulated in ways recalling the elastic bands of Alwin Nikolais’ modern-dance classic Tensile Involvement. More interesting (and magical) effects were created with yellow yarn, stretched across the stage like a huge cat’s cradle through which the dancers slowly walked, fingers interlaced with strands.
Highlights included two very different narratives. In one, Kraus knelt as she spoke, barely audibly, of what appeared to be a medical tragedy; the other featured Revlock, a gifted comedian, prattling about a chicken liver-studded Valentine’s Day omelet.
Much of this piece was performed in silence, during which the audience was equally quiet - a testament to the power of Red Thread.