Lar Lubovitch makes pretty, pleasing modern dances that are easy to like but not always easy to remember. His Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, which he established in New York in 1968, is still going 44 years later, so he must be doing something right. He has a full-length “Othello” to his credit. He’s set pieces to music by composers ranging from Igor Stravinsky and Philip Glass to Richard Rodgers and John Coltrane. He’s choreographed for ice skaters; he’s been nominated for a Tony and an Emmy.
The quartet of pieces he brought to the Citi Shubert Theatre on Friday, under the auspices of the Celebrity Series, were all Boston premieres: “North Star” (1978), “Little Rhapsodies” (2007), “Crisis Variations” (2011), and “The Legend of Ten” (2010). The best of the lot was “Crisis Variations,” which, set to a squealing, squawking suite by Yevgeniy Sharlat based on Liszt’s “Transcendental Études,” starred Katarzyna Skarpetowska and Brian McGinnis as a dysfunctional couple possessed by, it seemed, demons. At one point, McGinnis spun on his butt; at another, Skarpetowska exited by crawling on her back. The supporting ensemble echoed their anguish.
“North Star” is set to five selections from the 1977 Glass album of that name. The music, which sounds like a calliope version of the Swingle Singers, hasn’t held up well; neither has Lubovitch’s floppy choreography. Elisa Clark made an impact with her spastic solo to the pulsing “Montage,” but the hysteria didn’t build.
“Little Rhapsodies” draws on 10 of the 12 variations from Schumann’s “Symphonic Études.” Variation I found McGinnis and Reed Luplau circling each other in a kind of mating dance while Attila Joey Csiki looked on with folded arms. McGinnis was a childlike toy soldier in Variation IV; Luplau a wild and crazy guy in Variation IX; and after those two had begun the heroic final Variation XII, Csiki joined in and they became a comradely trio. But Lubovitch’s inspiration goes flat while Schumann’s is still rampant.
For “The Legend of Ten,” Lubovitch chose the first and fourth movements of Brahms’s F-minor Piano Quintet. As Brahms waxed turbulent and tragic, the ensemble seemed to invoke an absent god, arms constantly in motion. But it was Clark and Clifton Brown who, in their duets, forged personal identities. Here, as in the other works, Lubovitch had his dancers enjoying the music rather than exploring it.
Jeffrey Gantz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.