The Pilobolus Dance Theatre introduced a hell-is-other-people theme playfully at the start of its program Monday at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, then addressed it quite seriously at the end.
Between the two segments, the familiar group offered one of its early body-mutation pieces.
"The Particle Zoo" (1990) opened the program with three men--Kent Lindemer, John-Mario Sevilla and Sebastian Smeureanu--staring curiously into the air. Into the group, an outsider (Adam Battelstein) appeared literally to be thrown.
We could tell he was different because he was wearing a T-shirt while the others were bare-chested. It was not until he stripped off the shirt that the others appeared to accept him.
The four immediately started a razzle-dazzle kind of chain race, running in front of each other so rapidly that all distinctions and individuality looked to be obliterated. At least to the audience.
But not to the original three guys.
Again and again, the outsider was reminded of his difference, although it was never clearly defined. He imitated their flying into each other's arms, for instance, only to be dropped to the floor.
In fact, the three collaborated to establish an unpredictable and at times treacherous world. Gestures of support and tenderness unexpectedly turned into power ploys; alternatively, upfront wrestling moves shifted into caresses.
Whatever questions any of this raised were kept at arm's length by lots of high-velocity gymnastic virtuosity and a spoof ending in which a dummy of the outsider fell from the ceiling.
Quite different was the world of "Sweet Purgatory" (1991), set to Shostakovich's blistering Quartet No. 8 as transcribed for string orchestra by Rudolf Barshai.
Here the four men from "Particle Zoo," plus Rebecca Jung and Jude Woodcock, inhabited a compacted space, fell back from unseen forces, frantically rolled across the stage and turned little frog hops into desperate vaults from the floor.
But escape was impossible. Everyone who tried to run away--and they all did--was caught and brought back.
Somehow, though, accommodation eventually was achieved, although it may have been more through Shostakovich's music than the movement design. The six dancers paired off into couples, cradling one another as if lovers, victims, corpses, whatever. The final image verged on exaltation, as partners were lifted overhead in a star-burst pattern.
Largely lacking in any such relational implications, "Alraune" (1975) offered Battelstein and Woodcock lyrically enwrapped in sculpted forms and occasionally venturing bursts of kinetic movement. It was a reminder of Pilobolus' movement-exploration origins.
The remainder of the program consisted of works performed at Pepperdine University in Malibu and reviewed last week.