BECKET — In “she dreams in code,” choreographer Liz Gerring takes a potentially dull subject, the obsessive cycling of recurring dreams, and sets it to a purposely unmelodic soundtrack. Then she directs her cast to perform with blank, almost dazed expressions.
This takes about an hour. It’s utterly absorbing.
Aside from the clue in the title, “she dreams,” which Gerring’s company performs through Sunday at Jacob’s Pillow, is abstract. While Michael J. Shumacher’s nonlinear composition of shattered fragments of sound and Willy Le Maitre’s fey and blurry projections help us to relocate the action from the harsh light of day to the surreal diffusion of a dreamscape, the coherence of any dance depends largely on the thematic clarity of its vocabulary. In a piece investigating the patterns we return to again and again — in dreams, but also in relationships — repetitiveness is inevitable as an illuminative device; fortunately, Gerring’s movement palette ranges in specificity of form and attack, and doesn’t feel recycled.
Indeed, there are subtle glories built into the iterations: rewards for careful viewing. In a duet illustrating uneven power dynamics, a couple faces each other. The woman repeatedly sinks down, diving off now to one side, then to the other, into a planed, vaguely submissive position. Each time the man backs up a bit, impervious. The third time, she dives into the man, goading him to react; the fourth time he catches her and lowers her down with care, his impassivity finally, if faintly, interrupted. A male couple simultaneously echoes the duet. Later the man in the first couple is the one to sink down.
LIZ GERRING DANCE COMPANY, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival
The six skilled performers dance with an athletic subtlety. Though their faces are passive, their physicality clearly expresses emotions. At times their movements are sweeping: big and relaxed, or tensed, with agitatedly quick lunges and shifts of direction; sometimes they slide and crawl, as if tossing restlessly in bed. This impressionism aside, Gerring’s choreography often requires a sturdiness of technique. The women in particular excel in these moments, hovering in powerfully lengthened and beautifully etched arabesques.
In the TV show “The X-Files,” Fox Mulder once said that “dreams are the answers to questions we haven’t yet figured out how to ask.” And so we chase after our dreams, in search of meaning. Gerring’s “she dreams in code” suggests that, if we keep looking, the truth is out there.