''Unsettled States: Dance Under Democracy" conjures up the kind of goofy, pointed political theater you might get if you combined ''Saturday Night Live" with Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, the famous all-male parodic ballet company. In performance at Green Street Studios last weekend, the sensibility was there, even if the result didn't quite measure up.
The show is the brainchild of local choreographers Josie Bray and Dawn Davis Loring. In 12 short pieces, some with live music, a collaborative group of 15 took on everything from inequities in health care to global violence to the artist's precarious state in our not-so-United States. At its best, the show inspired with its sheer cleverness and the performers' palpable zest. But hearing the same political tune blared a dozen times -- sometimes not all that articulately -- could be wearing.
Structurally, the group's approach was impressive. Looping together the disparate dance pieces were vignettes that used Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's five stages of grief -- denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance -- to show the road Democrats must travel to deal with the country's fractured political condition. Crafted by Chloe Lara-Russack, Julia Van Daam, and Anna M. Zamarripa, these vignettes provided some of the zaniest and most on-target moments in the show.
Zamarripa was fabulously intense in ''Denial" as a reporter interviewing the glitzy, ditzy Foxy Roxy (Van Daam), who sang with alphabetical abandon about Democratic losses. ''Depression," on the other hand, had a bipolar effect: You were pumped when the pharmaceutical rep (Lara-Russack) plied Zamarripa with antidepressants the size of Hostess Sno Balls to ''cure" her existential woes. But you sank when it descended into trite attacks on corporations as the undoing of artists and Bolivian children.
Another interlude, Jennifer Lawson's ''Right Wing or West Wing," was an audience-participation quote-identification contest. Some quotes were a hoot, and the host (Lawson) and her sidekick (Amanda Grigoraitis) sparkled.
Among the pure dance numbers, Bray's ''Sold!" -- a look at materialism -- soared with the antics of dancers Melissa Caddle and Kirsta Sendziak, wearing a handful of red glow-in-the-dark rings.
But other dance pieces failed to pack a punch. Lauren Lenihan's ''Dance of the Middle-Class American" -- featuring a trio with linked arms and slippery legs -- didn't communicate the class struggle the title suggests. And her ''Same Old Song & Dance" was heavy-handed, with its nurse ministering to an insured person in a hospital gown and giving short shrift to an uninsured counterpart.
Bray's ''Chasing Rabbits," a work in progress set to an original composition by Barry Neely, offered seven dancers -- now slithering backward on their bellies, now making chopping arm motions -- played against a sound collage incorporating quotes from both sides of the political spectrum. The point was to wag a finger at America's embrace of violence. But the movement wasn't precise enough to get the idea across.
Indeed, one of most powerful pieces eschewed dance altogether. In ''Falling Stars & Jagged Stripes," flutist Alison Hearn stood center stage, sweetly playing ''America the Beautiful" in stops and starts, while a cacophony of classic American songs crashed behind her.
Music, it seems, can speak louder than movement or words.