A great choreographer is like an alchemist. She takes basic elements–movement, sound, light–and somehow transforms them into something far more beautiful than the sum of the parts. Do it once and people call it luck. Twice and it’s called potential. To arrive at it slowly, as Jan Erkert has over a period of 15 years, is the sign of a true artist. That artistry surfaced last year in Erkert’s Turn Her White With Stones, a dance that Reader critic Laura Molzahn said existed beyond the realm of words. This year Erkert seems to have gone even further into the unspoken. Her new Whole Fragments is a tightly structured “abstract” dance, yet images resonate in a way the mind can’t rationalize. Like a true alchemist Erkert took one of the most elemental experiences–her own illness, a spinal infection that left her hospitalized for months–and transformed it into a dance of spiritual awakening. She explores the healing process, wondering what is needed for a damaged body to become whole again. The answer presents itself in fragments, either live onstage or filmed and projected onto a flimsy paper house. Some movements are awkward, some are goofy, and others are as soft and comforting as falling asleep next to a loved one. Virtually a living metaphor, this dance is not meant to be dissected; it is the process of putting back together again. Next Thursday and Friday, March 23 and 24, at 8 and next Saturday, March 25, at 3 and 8 at the Dance Center of Columbia College, 4730 N. Sheridan; $14-$16. Call 271-7928 for tickets and info.

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