Dancer Robert Small demonstrated extraordinary technical range and control in his full-evening solo "Anything With a Heartbeat" at The House in Santa Monica over the weekend. But, sadly, the 55-minute dance by the lithe, limber former member of the Murray Louis Dance Company remained generally obscure and only intermittently compelling.
Divided into six sections by stage blackouts, changes in Ron Anderson's electronic sound score or shifts in movement imitative of the sectional titles ("Dreaming," "Waking," "Running," "Waiting," "Dying," "Squeezing"), Small's work used some notably recurring images, either in short, immediately repeated sequences or in later permutations. These tended to extremes: either sharp, jerky, mechanical-man movements, with convulsive breathing that evolved from silence through hissing to a few shouted words, or slow, floating balances and stretches, which occasionally flowed into feline, curvilinear poses.
Otherwise, the dance unfolded in loose, lengthy, fashion, with many space-devouring episodes. Some striking ideas, such as the contrast between being in control and being controlled, were inadequately explored, however.
But other aspects simply seemed empty and abstract, though purporting to symbolize common experience, especially the theatricalized episodes of ritualized death and burial and the bursting of a water-filled bag--birth? rebirth?--in the last, significant squeeze. If these had deep meaning for the choreographer, they never, alas, became shared revelations.