When this New York-based troupe performed at the Dance Center of Columbia College a little more than ten years ago, I was struck by choreographer Susan Marshall’s instinct for drama and her knack for emotionally resonant, kinetically logical movement phrases. One brief sequence in the duet Arms elegantly evoked the push-pull dynamic of close relationships: a woman repeatedly pulled a man’s arm around her shoulders but shrugged it off before it settled; eventually the violence of her movement pushed him away from her–he dropped at the waist–but her shrug turned into a swoop that pulled him back upright. At the time I felt Marshall was struggling to move even further into narrative; now, on her return to Chicago, she presents an evening-length piece that promises a passionate story. The Descent Beckons–commissioned by the University of Iowa for the close of the millennium and premiered there last month–is performed by six dancers and actor-writer Lisa Kron, founding member of the Five Lesbian Brothers; its subject is orgiastic New Year’s rituals, which Marshall ties to traditional methods of expelling diseases and evil spirits and expresses in vaudeville and Las Vegas performance styles, among others. Also included are 75 life-size inflatable dolls, mute figures Marshall describes as “a class of subordinate beings–controllable, dominated, manipulated. They become our alter egos. They are our dead. Their nakedness and incapacity reminds us of our atrocities.” Such intelligent despair could be the perfect way to end the millennium: why not start celebrating now? Thursday, November 11, through next Saturday, November 13, at 8 at the Dance Center of Columbia College, 4730 N. Sheridan; $20. Call 773-989-3310 for tickets and information. –Laura Molzahn

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/John-Francis Bourke.