With Elam, expect the unexpected
CONCORD - Choreographer Chris Elam’s glistening, contorted abstractions will tie your mind in knots even as they wrench your heart. His dances, three of which his Misnomer Dance Theater presented Thursday under the title “Being Together,’’ are a collision of the mundane and the bizarre, lit by sparks of human frailty and lilting efforts to connect. They will crack wide your conception of how far dance - and human bodies - can go.
“Too Late Tulip,’’ whose multipart score begins with Greg Brown’s poignant lyrics, is at once a paean to family and an acknowledgement of its breaches. Three women in thin dresses enter in turn, their hips tracing sin curves, a leg swinging open and shut, gatelike, as if the ball of that foot is grinding out an invisible cigarette. It is an invitation to the dance - and to intimacy. Later this trio is offset by a couple. The pair bind - arching into backbends, they clomp toward one another and shake shaggy heads. But they also break: He stands, an arm raised, tapping his back, “calling’’ to her. No response.
In “Rock. Paper. Flock.’’ - also set to a musical amalgam, including Andy Teirstein’s original score - Elam aims to deconstruct the choreographic process by building a dance before our eyes. Clad in jumpsuit and bomber helmet (his “light-bulb’’ cap), Elam barks oblique instructions to the five dancers, permitting them, he tells us, to be 80 percent themselves and 20 percent the choreographer’s instruments. The results are often hilarious, sometimes near-violent.
The last piece, “Zipper,’’ is a collaboration between Elam and composer Evan Ziporyn, whose now melodic, now clicking score was recorded by the Real Quiet ensemble. A meditation on how alone we can be, even when together, it’s a compendium of small moments: Cinched fingers pull an invisible thread vertically, or separate and flick. Jenny Campbell sinks into a wide second-position plie, and Boston’s own Coco Karol straddles her leg: It’s thigh upon thigh upon thigh upon thigh: Whose is whose?
Jennifer C. Harmer, in a startling sequence, sits Pilates-style, her legs raised straight, her torso the other half of the V, then crashes her legs to the ground in a diamond shape, and dives inside them. As she rolls onto her back, the configuration remains intact - it’s like a stained-glass window, reflecting the action.
Elam can make the ignoble noble and the familiar strange - and then reverse the process. He opens the door to a world known by a select few. If only he would close it a bit sooner: “Rock’’ and especially “Zipper’’ went on too long, sapping some uniqueness out of these odd and beautiful works.