Embraces, sucker punches, grands jetés and finger-walking on a tabletop -- Minneapolis-based Shapiro & Smith Dance draw from a veritable lexicon of gesture. Their recent performance at the Edison Theatre showcased vigor and precision with a quartet of dances that differed dramatically, from minimalism to bumptious pratfalls. All triumphed, thanks to the intelligence and incredibly high performance standards of choreographer/dancers Danial Shapiro and Joanie Smith.
The standout was "To Have and to Hold," featuring six dancers and three backless benches. Scott Killian's score was primitive-techno -- pattering drum, electric-piano glissandos and harsh guitar chords. Dancers slid on the benches, lay atop one another and tumbled into one another's arms. The performers sometimes moved in unison, but every movement surprised as the mood shifted constantly: erotic, mournful, playful and athletic. One of the many refreshing aspects of Shapiro & Smith is indifference to gender roles -- women and men lift men, for example.
The slight but muscular Smith soloed in the smart and strange "Wee Violence." Kneeling on a yellow rug, she "acted" a narrative by David Greenspan. Here, a woman tries to recall her childhood: Did she kill a kitten? Her now-infirm mother can't or won't help her, and action matched words gracefully. "Mother had delicate hands, even now, when she is aged," read dancer John Beasant III as Smith held her hands as if they were camellias, then contorted them into arthritic claws on the word "aged." Sinister and complex, "Wee Violence" suggested memory fails far earlier than the body, and accepting that is inevitable. But, oh, what a struggle.