The art of dance will sometimes focus on telling a story, making a sociopolitical statement, defining group identity, showcasing individual prowess or developing a home-grown movement vocabulary. None of these applied to the latest edition of Split: Dance In and Out of LA.
In a stimulating eight-part program at the Alex Theatre on Saturday, Split focused on space: the ways five Southland choreographers found to divide, dominate and dramatize a wide-open stage.
Three solos danced by the commanding Lisa K. Lock explored deliberately constricted space -- especially her chilling “Silent Dialogue,” in which she moved within a small upright frame (something like a mirrored dressing table), switching lights on and off while she obsessively examined herself.
Her familiar improvisational “Winged” solo found Lock on pointe within a web of black net, while Patrick Frantz’s “The Infinite Fifth” tested her balletic and gymnastic prowess around and atop a practice barre that fenced off the stage in several directions.
Three pieces by Deborah Brockus for her Brockus Project Dance Company explored three spatial contexts. In “The Beginning of Life,” Roxanne Reyes and Andrea Marblestone danced inside an illuminated tent, creating small-scale shadow imagery before Reyes emerged into the light. Evoking a sunset-to-sunrise time cycle, Brockus’ sextet “Phoenix” began with surging panoramic forays, then slowed and imploded, with Kaleo Francis holding center stage in poses suggesting Asian religious sculpture.
In contrast, “Finding Balance on Quaking Land” placed the same dancers in liquid space -- their constant expressions of flow accented by jumps spurting up from the floor and splashy little waves of coordinated rolling.
In Jean Isaacs’ “A Geography of Risk,” the eight members of her San Diego Dance Theater danced wry, imaginative responses to a series of texts drawn from tourist guidebooks and other sources. Thus a warning about hidden alpine crevices inspired some of the dancers to form a crevice-ridden landscape and others to become intrepid explorers.
When the texts and warnings concerned relationships, the piece abandoned outdoor vistas for intimate duets, none more extended or compelling than the mercurial partnership between Victor Alonso and Rommel Salveron.
Completing the program: Stephanie Gilliland’s previously reviewed “Full Frontal Enigma,” a showpiece for her 10-member Tongue company in which the juxtaposition of high-speed music and slo-mo dancing generated the feeling of being inside the eye of a hurricane.
However, this spacey Split bill, and the big Alex stage, drew attention to the artful, evolving battle plan of the work -- the way Gilliland zoomed from full-company assaults to fireworks by a single dancer or two. Rather like a follow-focus sequence in a film, the result represented malleable space: the realm of dance continually redefined by the choreographer’s eye.
The Split series resumes at the Alex on May 10, with artists to be announced.