Silesian Dance Theatre performs two or three times a month in Bytom and tours widely. (It visited Los Angeles last year.) Luminski plans to establish a school of contemporary dance and is developing a university curriculum to improve and standardize dance studies.

Like so many other Poles in the arts, he is optimistic about the future — though the influence of globalization and, particularly, television alarms him. That alarm is central to his new piece for the company, "Glamour of Mundane — Dream From a Saint," which shows a dishy fallen angel with a mohawk mourning the brutalities of modern life and relationships.

The piece shocks some longtime company observers by abandoning dance expression in an audience participation segment satirizing game shows and reality TV, with mindless commercials also on its list of targets. But Luminski's sophistication as a choreographer proves inarguable during passages of intricate, forceful dancing on and beneath a multilevel scaffolding he designed.

By no coincidence, the work's deliberately raw juxtaposition of approaches and styles reflects the major tensions and junctures of millennial Polish life. In Silesia, the closing of the coal mines has brought cleaner air and water to the region but also unemployment and political upheaval. Elsewhere, a new compulsion to embrace all the freedoms impossible under Communism has made the radical heroes of a few years ago sound like reactionaries.

This year, Lech Kaczynski, the mayor of Warsaw — who is running for president in an election to be decided today — banned the annual gay pride parade in that city. But it took place anyway, with the cooperation of the police and several public officials. More significantly, it attracted hordes of people with no special interest in homosexual rights but who saw the parade and ban in larger terms: as an example of embattled freedom of expression.

Poles have lost too many freedoms too often to let this one die without protest — so these days Poles don't have to be gay to support a gay pride parade any more than they have to be Jewish to celebrate the contribution that the annihilated population made to Polish culture and identity.

Suppressed under one tyranny or another for nearly half a century, Polish contemporary dance represents freedom of expression in human form, offering a perspective on the issues and events dominating national consciousness.

Contemporary dance here is not necessarily political, or not necessarily not political; sometimes it is focused on movement research, but it is always about human experience — and about traditions that are in the process of being reinvigorated or overthrown.

For the visitor, it is at once fresh and familiar, informed by the history and techniques of American and European modernism, yet determined to find its own way, its own style, its own language. With a few more venues and a lot more government funding, it could make its panoply of uncompromising visions a major force both at home and on major world dance stages.



Contemporary dance in old cities


From LAX, Lufthansa, Air France, KLM, British, United, Continental and American have connecting flights (change of plane) to Warsaw. Restricted round-trip fares begin at $902 until Oct. 31, dropping to $641 until Dec. 9.



To call the numbers below from the U.S., dial 011 (the international dialing code), 48 (country code for Poland) and the local number.