Olivia May and Shannon Edwards
Olivia May and Shannon Edwards Credit: William Frederking

Missed connections are the business of Shannon Edwards’s Chronicles of Nostalgia, one of three pieces by Dance COLEctive members whom Margi Cole has nurtured into keen choreographers through her “COLEctive Notions” project, now in its fourth year. A trio of dancers become grief coaches, issuing directions such as “If the person you miss has passed away, try not to think about how much you miss them,” to which one dancer responds by pulling on each of her fingers individually, mimicking the futile grasping and inevitable slipping on the threshold of death. Later, relationships are treated like trifles to be held, stroked, or tossed aside, as in the advice “If your close friend has moved away, find a new friend.” Dancers suck the fingers of both hands into their mouths, then blow them out—a movement that wipes emotional slates clean.

Fine movements take precedence over technical demonstrations, too, in Olivia May’s No Leaves, Tall Trees. Over a melody with an Appalachian twang, four women shift in and out of a line formation, playing off each other with gentle shoves. The display might evoke social expectations about femininity. May is also interested in a custom she’s observed in the south where women wear pearls even for trips to the gym. Like the North Carolina pine trees the piece’s title refers to, stage decorations emerge as a double-edged sword: soft and yielding under snow, they are nonetheless sharp testaments to endurance and strength.