Eliot Feld is a formalist, but lucky for us he’s not one bit respectful or dignified. Using Bach’s Brandenburg concerti for a piece like Common Ground, he doesn’t seem to think about the composer’s venerable reputation–he listens to the excitement in the music, matching it phrase for phrase, his dancers breaking down like jointed toys or sliding into the floor like baseball players beating a throw to third. Baroque music, including modern-day baroque compositions by the likes of Steve Reich, is his meat: complex, fast moving, skittery and surprising. His light heart carries over even into serious works: in Doo Dah Day, a piece about racism, Feld can’t resist making fun of Stephen Foster’s plangent melodies and sentimental lyrics, so much so that the laughs almost undermine the satire. These two works were seen during Feld Ballets/NY’s last Chicago engagement, in 1993; they’re not on these programs, though a few from that engagement are (the solo Ion and the rousing ensemble piece The Jig Is Up). The first of two completely different programs will be performed next Thursday and Saturday, October 5 and 7, at 8: the 1970 Consort, set to courtly Elizabethan music; Chi, set to Reich; the 1990 Charmed Lives, set to Maurice Ravel; and the 1995 Ludwig Gambits, set to…well, you know. Next Friday, October 6, at 8 and next Sunday, October 8, at 3: Feld’s first ballet, the 1967 Harbinger, set to Prokofiev; Ion; The Jig Is Up; and the 1990 Ah Scarlatti. At the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress; $15-$40. Call 902-1500 for tickets, 431-2357 for group sales.

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