When does movement become dance? Or is all movement that’s not work dance? (We’d have to include football and step aerobics then.) Such questions arise when dance threatens to cross some indeterminate line and encroach on theater, as it does in the hands (feet?) of the companies on this Dance Chicago ’96 program. The venerable three-member Fluid Measure Performance Company will offer an excerpt from For Love or Money, which enhances a funny, chilling, moving text about growing up Italian-American in Chicago with movements both realistic (a seemingly innocent hand game with an aunt) and formal (walking in big loops like birds of prey circling for food). The Curious Theatre Branch, headed in this case by Bryn Magnus, performs an edited version of Illustrious Bloodspill, its manic, wordless re-creation of the bodily and facial gestures of action movies; often violent and exhilarating, always cartoonish, it features several “threatening” figures dressed identically in suits and ties chasing one another and their own tails around the stage. At the opposite end of the spectrum is Plasticene’s slow-moving Refuge: this “physical theatre” company uses doors on wheels, dramatic lighting, and the human body (no words) to suggest the refugee experience; though vaguely farcical at times–perhaps it’s the doors–it’s more often self-consciously tragic. Rounding out the program is the all-female Baubo Performance Project, in a new piece that’s more abstract than usual, and the MASS (Movement and Sonic Sculpture) Ensemble, which wields musical instruments of its own invention. Saturday and Friday, November 22, at 8 at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport; $15. Call 773-935-6860 for information and tickets, 312-902-1500 for tickets.

–Laura Molzahn

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Fluid Measure Performance Company photo by William Frederking.