Though smorgasbord dance programs can be fun–a smidgen of this and a taste of that–long pieces are often more satisfying. For their joint concert, Margi Cole of the Dance COLEctive and Colleen Halloran each ended up making a longish work in several sections. Halloran’s California is a 40-minute narrative piece about a road trip to the west coast she took as a girl in 1974. The genius of the work is the way it captures not just childish ways of thinking but the particular child who tells this tale, a quiet, somewhat nervous kid with excellent intuition but not many friends. Whether the narrator is describing her dreamer of a father or her disgust with the “communal this and communal that” way of life in the early 70s–when the whole country was at sea, not just a single family–we see instantly from both the child’s and the adult’s point of view. Richly textured both aurally and visually, California is funny, touching, and fantastical all at once. Cole’s Reel to Real is a 30-minute multimedia piece in five sections about images of female beauty, suggesting that the most beautiful woman is the one most natural and unadorned. At the center of the piece–and perhaps its heart–are two duets, the only sections I saw in their entirety. The first is somewhat naive and childish, the second more considered, self-aware, and mature, but both convey the delicate mutual support and intimacy crucial to female friendships. The second in particular, danced by Edna Radnik and Ebony Lashay Vincent, keeps the two women in constant, weighted relationship, each winding her movements around the other to create a dense web of feeling and connection. At a time when we’re being urged to consume all manner of confections for the good of the country, we need reminders that cultural self-examination is also patriotic. Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 S. Michigan, 312-344-8300. Through December 8: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM. $20. Note: A family-oriented one-hour matinee will be performed Saturday at 3 PM, preceded by a free parent-child movement workshop at 2:15 PM. $10, $6 for children.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/William Frederking.