Sometimes I think the very best dances induce not excitement but meditation. Watching the Merce Cunningham Dance Company last spring at the Museum of Contemporary Art, I fell into a slumberous state that only enhanced the poignance of the dancing. Eiko & Koma, the husband-and-wife team who won a MacArthur fellowship in 1996, seem to aim for a similar result. The piece they premiered last summer and are bringing here this weekend, When Nights Were Dark, confines the two in what New York Times critic Anna Kisselgoff called a revolving “shiplike structure” festooned with leaves and other vegetation (they used a similar set in The Caravan Project, an outdoor work shown here in fall 1999). Meant to suggest a primordial past and the primal transformations of birth and death, When Nights Were Dark features the duo’s trademark incremental movement–an approach that clearly helps lull us into a trancelike state and increases our sense that reality can shift without our seeing the change. Joseph Jennings, director of the music group Chanticleer, has created a wordless a cappella score that’s performed onstage by five members of the James Hall Worship and Praise Choir, one of whom noted in an interview that though Eiko & Koma “really move slowly…they cover so much ground.” Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, 773-722-5463 or 312-902-1500. Opens Thursday, March 8, 8 PM. Through March 10: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM. $20.

–Laura Molzahn

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Hui-En Teng.