In chaos theory, a “strange attractor” is a focusing pattern in a chaotic field. But you don’t need to know physics to appreciate Stephen Petronio’s evening-length Strange Attractors, made to celebrate his company’s 15th anniversary. Watching the first part (the second was unavailable on video), I saw eight dancers in constantly shifting relationships; since we’re human beings, we tend to see these shifts in emotional terms. All four men wear light-colored silky pajamas, one woman wears a light-colored shift, and the remaining three women wear dark shifts, adding another formal element to what is essentially a formal dance. Petronio’s choreography is sometimes spiky but more often circular and fluid, with lots of turns and great, arcing ronds de jambe, punctuated on occasion with an odd little stagger or dip of the head. Overall the movement has a bursting, lyrical quality that’s especially affecting when one dancer partners another–two people holding hands throughout a phrase don’t seem clingy or dependent but joyously connected–and the nightclothes and low lights suggest a dream. The score for the first part was composed by Michael Nyman, who won an Academy Award for his sound track to The Piano; like the dancing, this piece for strings and piano is mellifluous and cool. British “underground” music maker and deejay James Lavelle did the percussive music for the second part, which is said to be “fiercely passionate.” Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 S. Michigan, 312-344-8300. Opens Thursday, March 1, 8 PM. Through March 3: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM. $20. Note: Petronio and company members will offer a master class Saturday, March 3, at 12:30 PM at Holstein Park, 2200 N. Oakley. $15.

–Laura Molzahn

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