Bob Eisen
Bob Eisen Credit: Stas Davydov

Toward the end of Bob Eisen’s duet with Kristina Isabelle, an untitled work he’s reprised twice with different dancers since last year’s premiere in Russia, I was touched by an impulse—at once amusing and alarming—to obsessively list English words with connotations of movement, then spend the rest of the dance ticking off terms, Bingo style, as their analogues surfaced. With pleasure, I imagined striking out every last adjective, noun, and verb in a long, vertiginous streak.

Eisen’s dance pushes psychic buttons. In fact, the whole endeavor reads like a meditation on interpersonal pathologies. Where Eisen is willowy and spry and wears dingy gray athletic clothes that are regal on his frame, the smaller Isabelle projects an intense tenderness Eisen frequently rejects. Their stomping, galloping, panting dance summons abstract images—sharks, soldiers, toy guns. Sometimes the dancers flex their feet and grapple, or jump up and down with excitement; sometimes they mirror each other in lofty double solos, eyes blank with total absorption.

Softness and strain are the choreographer’s governing principles, but breathing is the leading vector of change; in strenuous passages the dancers seem to be rowing upstream on a river of sighs. At a transitional moment, when the dancers’ momentum seems almost to blow into the room before redoubling, it produces a little of the shock of a memento mori.

In addition to his 17-minute piece, Eisen, one of the founders of Links Hall, has invited Chicago friends Dmitri Peskov, Damon Green, and Bryan Saner to contribute duets and a trio to the program.