For Tandy Beal, decor is destiny. When a stage is hung with panels resembling a certain Marcel Duchamp staircase--as the stage of Thorne Hall, Occidental College, was on Sunday--expect the Santa Cruz-based choreographer to deliver a dance based on multiple refractions of the same activities.
But the suite from Beal's "The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light" went beyond its imaginative formal reiterations of speech and movement themes to make a statement about wholeness and continuity: about each person as a component in the planet's life-process.
Moreover, Beal's multiracial, multigenerational viewpoint was embodied in dancing of exceptional buoyancy and warmth. Indeed, the nine members of her company achieved a deep-yet-easy rapport and a new unity of style (partly based on producing every movement with maximum lightness) that made their dancing as distinctive as performances by the Cunningham and Taylor ensembles.
Along the way, there was a quartet for dancers on stilts (or high platform shoes) that evoked the sense of ancient seers gazing in sadness at the hectic actions of our time; a gymnastic duet (for Scott Marsh and Greg Simione) that attained an almost absolute purity of design (and denial of weight); moments when unison movement patterns yielded to expressions of individual feelings. Magical.
In Beal's new "Creation du Monde" (music by Milhaud), scenic transformations signaled the dancers' sudden change from arid sophistication and cocktail-party manners to the life of the senses and simulated nudity. Presiding over this wry dance parable: Beal herself as a nature spirit.
She also danced four fine mini-solos early in the evening with nearly selfless serenity: the wondrous balloon-manipulation adagio "Heisenberg's Principle"; the comic character vignette "Mysterious Barricades"; the lyrical, womanly reverie "Moonlight Processional"; and the spectacular shadowplay "Neither Darkness Nor Science" (assisted by Ellen Sevy). Most of the music for the program was composed by Jon Scoville.