Some dances are obvious. You can tell right away where they’re going–or that they’re going nowhere. Shirley Mordine’s dances always go somewhere, but their destinations are far from obvious–you have to see them again to get a good sense of how they got from here to there. Her new Jump Cuts concludes the way it begins, with a confused-looking male dancer who first wanders onstage to follow the choreographer’s dicta–Mordine reads the text herself–and walks offstage at the end despite her instructions. Both times he looks frustrated yet guilty, tired of being bossed around but obedient. When Mordine intones, “Let’s start again,” he sighs. A lot of the movement is awkward, disjointed or mechanical, as when one dancer picks up two women, one in the crook of each arm, and carries them stiff and straight from one spot to another. Dancers balance on their butts, legs raised, arms stretched out and jiggling manically in a wildly exaggerated attempt to hold still. Lloyd Brodnax King’s original score reinforces the uncertain, jumpy feel; it’s made up of isolated piano notes, classical music that devolves into screeching strings, found sounds, a ragtime/tango that breaks down instead of taking off, static. The work’s emotional center is a female solo near the end that begins in silence as the dancer walks on haltingly, looking down. Mordine calls out, “Where are you? I can’t see what you’re doing!” and the dancer, who in my mind can’t breathe, begins scooping in great armfuls of air. In essence Mordine creates a Beckettian universe where the choreographer and dancers alike repeat themselves, break off, start again. But whatever they do, the work is never finished. Also on the program is last year’s masterful premiere by Mordine, I Haven’t Heard From You, set to a Mozart sonata. The third work is Desert Eye, created in 1999 for the company by Miguel Mancillas of the Mexican troupe Antares Danza Contemporanea. Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn, 312-337-6543. Opens Thursday, March 11, 8 PM. Through March 14: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM; Sunday, 3 PM. $13-$15, or purchase one ticket at full price and get a second for $10.

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