Holly Johnston, known for her roughhouse choreography, intrepid choices and resolute vision, continues to explore the body in wondrous ways. On Thursday, her six-member Ledges and Bones Dance Project was joined by guest artist Maria Gillespie for a trio of premieres, under the banner "Resurface," at the Diavolo Dance Space.
With "Ellice," Johnston showed her mettle by making wonderful use of music by Bach, as a sextet of rising and falling bodies physicalized the Baroque master's counterpoint. Leading the pack, statuesque, long-legged Tekla Kostek rippled into solid balancing poses and extreme backward bends. Unison jumps, sprightly dips and crisp pirouettes were also on fine display in this eight-minute work.
"Tracing Echoes" gave Gillespie the opportunity to make her mark, literally. The 10-minute solo, created in collaboration with Johnston and accompanied by violinist Julie Pusch, featured the dancer moving about a large sheet of polished butcher paper, with the soles of her tiny feet covered in charcoal. When she wasn't streaking around this stark universe where danger mixed with desire, the pony-tailed Gillespie was on her knees, her eyes glazed, or throwing punches at an invisible enemy. Sumptuously lighted by John A. Garofalo, this tableau of hope and despair made Gillespie's footprints a gritty metaphor for Pusch's elegiac melody.
The moody "Sand and Water" was made by Johnston with her dancers, who were clad in 21st century sunsuits (body-hugging tops and shorts designed by the choreographer), and it proved a potent 28 minutes. In a prologue set to the mildly disturbing sounds of Boards of Canada, dancers Arletta Anderson, Sarandon Vincent and Kostek established a twittering-hand motif that soon ceded to a stunning turn by Kostek, her praying-mantis-like limbs a tangled mass of determination. More consoling music by Arvo Part provided additional atmosphere.
Next, gentle streams of sand poured from the ceiling, and the performers, now including Kindra Windish, Sarri Sanchez and Erin Beneze, nearly genuflected while basking in the grains. As if in a ritualistic trance, they also crawled, walked and stood sentry. The lighting bled from amber to rose to ice blue, and a fugue of backward-tilting heads preceded the final scene, when, luxuriating under a spray of water, these spiritual warriors cleansed themselves and, in that rapturous process, created a small miracle.
Ledges and Bones Dance Project
Where: Diavolo Dance Space, Brewery Arts Complex, 616 Moulton St., Lincoln Heights
When: 8:30 tonight and 7 p.m. Sunday
Price: $15 and $20
Contact: (310) 918-6698