Molly Shanahan’s dances are never, ever easy–they tug the mind in one direction, only to abandon that tangent and take up another. Yet somehow they usually coalesce into a mysterious whole. Shanahan’s new solo, Sweet Ruthless, seems to be made up of snapshots or diary entries, memories of a love affair that’s over. Marked by numbered shreds of text (“Number four: a short dress draped for weeks over a bedroom chair”), it’s also defined by repeated movements: a sensuous motion of the hips in a slow-motion walk, a gaze into the palm as the dancer’s foot flips back. Performing the piece herself, Shanahan makes it simultaneously matter-of-fact and weighty, giving it a breathy, elusive emotion. Another new piece, a quartet called A Questionable Advantage, is Shanahan’s attempt at a humorous dance, but by her own admission it’s more abstract and witty than laugh-out-loud funny, as four self-absorbed people flirt, form couples, and finally abandon each other to fling themselves at us in blatant bids for approval. Also on this program of seven works–“Coaxing the Tame,” for which the troupe returns to Northwestern University five years after its inaugural appearance there–is A Pride of Hellions, a full-company piece that premiered during Dance Chicago ’98. Friday and Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 2 in the Marjorie Ward Marshall Dance Center of Northwestern University, 1979 South Campus Dr. in Evanston; $6-$10. Tickets available only at the door; call 773-296-0218 or 847-491-3147 for information. –Laura Molzahn

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.