Choreographer Chris Elam, artistic director of Misnomer Dance Theater, likes to sculpt himself and his company of agile dancers into improbable shapes with body parts sprouting out from unexpected places and intertwining into visually striking designs. Despite his talent for concocting inventive body arrangements, Elam's choreographic works do not develop enough to sustain interest once the novelty of seeing the intriguing positions has worn off. And, as became clear in a program of his pieces performed at Chashama Theater, Elam does not yet have a rich enough body of work to fill a full evening.
The opening trio, "Looking Long in the Stampede," is terrifically weird. Performing with a tight, tense quality that puts tidy edges on Elam's shape-driven choreography, the dancers enact what seem to be self-conscious flirtations, with Elam as a geeky, monster-like figure. Although one has no idea what their movements mean, it's great fun to watch and wonder why they dance to Jewish-sounding folk music one minute, to "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" the next, and all have green index fingers. By the end of the piece, we begin to grow bored, but the beginning of the next dance captivates us once again--a pattern that continues throughout the evening.
"Match Making," an eloquent duet about relationships, begins promisingly--she literally folds him up, rolls him over, pulls him apart, and he bends her, repels her, and cajoles her--but the wit fizzles out by the end. There are lots of funny moments in the duet "Dreams of Your Acceptance," but careless crafting makes it ramble rather than amuse. Although Elam leaves us wanting more of his gripping solo, "Cast-Iron Crutches," in which he seems to be trying to wrap his external being around his inner self, his two second-act ensemble pieces, "Inabable" and "Misnomer," feel redundant.
The evening was completed by "The Beginning," an aesthetically exciting juxtaposition of a strong-willed individual dancing against a turbulent video environment, choreographed and performed by guest artist Yoshiko Chuma.