For its final concert, Dance Collective could have done so much better.
Two years ago, the company threw a 30th anniversary concert to bid farewell to Dawn Kramer, the last of the troupe's founders to step down. On stage weren't just past and present dancers executing clever movements and tossing about wacky props. There was also a historical presence that gave the show a depth -- a kind of kinesthetic poignance.
That was not the case at this weekend's ''Commencement," presented at BU's new Dance Theater. The concert -- featuring pieces by departing artistic director Micki Taylor-Pinney and Boston newcomer Sarah Slifer -- intended to impart, by introducing Slifer, that even in endings there are beginnings. But Slifer's work was not up to the task.
Thankfully, Taylor-Pinney's was, particularly her evocative ''Field of View" (2005). Perhaps the real ''commencement" will be the veteran choreographer's spinning out on her own.
''Field of View" -- with music by jazz pianist-vocalist Markus Pinney and video by Harvey Nosowitz -- is essentially a duet for one. Taylor-Pinney crouches and stretches wide, pedals the air with her hands and grabs chunks of wind in cupped palms as both her body and shadow move against a projection of clear skies, breezy trees, and racing landscapes; at one point, it's as if her shadow is riding atop a moving train. The dance expresses eloquently that we may not be able to control the landscape, but we can choose our focus.
Her ''Eggery" (2005), a trio to music by Astor Piazzola, is a bird's-eye view of henhouse thuggery. Ann Brown Allen, a company member since 1978, remains agelessly beautiful. She's the now-wry, now-distraught keeper of the eggs, hoping to thwart the efforts of two young upstarts who toss the precious cargo with careless abandon, balance it on a flexed foot or an ear, and even tango with it in hand. The piece is a nod to Dance Collective's history of quirky offerings, where everyday objects (a spatula, a pan) become objets d'art.
''Dreamflights" (1991, 2005), an airy, lyrical abstraction for nine to music by Philip Glass, is lovely to look at but less original in its construction.
Slifer is a strong, solid dancer with clean lines and obvious technique. What's missing in her choreography is a sense of necessity to her movement sequences. There has to be a reason that phrase B follows phrase A -- even if that reason is conceptual, as with Merce Cunningham, who brilliantly explores chance itself. But in Slifer's dances, particularly in the two duets of ''My Own Personal" (2005), the phrases appear to be just dumped onstage, intriguing as some of those phrases may be -- as when the pair blow and spit as if they're balloons deflating. The extensive program note says that the dances explore how group mentality affects culture. Only the final, verbal part of the dance gives a hint of that.
A similar obscurity plagues the solo ''The Must (drive-by)" (2004), though the choreography here is tighter. After stripping to her underwear, Slifer executes spins that devolve into stillness, a kind of slow-motion break dancing, and is pulled hither and yon by the buzz of Martin de Wind's score. The Must, notes the program, is a brothel in Belgium -- a place, apparently, where brothels are as common as convenience stores -- and the dance is about the power of denial. Fewer words and more structural development could go a long way.