Founded in 2011 by a former Twyla Tharp dancer, Jessica Lang Dance is the recipient of a Bessie Award and has performed three times at Jacob’s Pillow, with another appearance scheduled for this summer. The company, which moved into its new 6,100-foot home in Long Island City last September, made its Boston debut Friday at the Shubert Theatre, in a Celebrity Series presentation. I was sorry not to see “The Wanderer,” the evening-length work set to Schubert’s “Die schöne Müllerin” that JLD brought to the Pillow in 2015. But the six Lang pieces on the bill show imagination in both concept and choreography.
Each half of the program begins with a brief solo. Set to the Gavotte from the Third Partita for Solo Violin, “Solo Bach” (2008) finds Patrick Coker in a jubilant, Mark Morris–like mood, raising his arms in celebration, doing a handstand, holding his hands to his heart. “The Calling” (2006) is more substantial. To Trio Mediaeval’s recording of the hymn “O Maria, stella maris,” Julie Fiorenza twists and turns in a white dress that pools on the floor like a parachute. Fiorenza, her feet barely moving, suggests supplication, acceptance, childbirth, and perhaps, at the end, a pietà.
In Lang’s choreography, less is more, and movement evolves naturally out of relationships. Jakub Ciupinski’s score for “Sweet Silent Thought” (2016) incorporates static-shrouded readings of Shakespeare sonnets: #30, #64, #40, #105, and #71. (The title is drawn from the first line of #30.) The piece’s two men hold hands for much of the 10 minutes, signifying the Bard’s affection for the Earl of Southampton. But they also dance with the two women, in pairs and in a circle, conveying the tension between love and friendship. In the end one man leaves the others and goes on alone.
“Thousand Yard Stare” (2015) begins and ends with silent, slow-motion marching; in between, the nine fatigue-clad dancers crawl about, carry one another out of battle, look gassed. The piece’s title refers to the vacant stare of shell-shocked soldiers. That makes an ironic contrast with the music, the Molto adagio of Beethoven’s Op. 132 String Quartet, a movement the composer titled “A Convalescent’s Holy Song of Thanksgiving to the Deity.” Using the Lydian mode rather than a major or minor key, Beethoven seems to be staring into the afterlife; the dancers look as if that’s where they’d like to be.
The final two works are linked studies in black and white. In “White” (2011), a film set to a quartet of Grieg piano pieces, the six white-clad dancers ghost by in blurry images, sometimes speeded up, sometimes in slow motion, as if movement could stretch into eternity. “i.n.k.” (2011) is performed against a video backdrop by Shinichi Maruyama in which inky liquid drips and plops, flows and splashes. The choreography counterpoints the video; you can hardly tell who’s echoing whom.
Jessica Lang Dance
Presented by Celebrity Series of Boston. At Boch Center Shubert Theatre, Jan. 27.
Jeffrey Gantz can be reached at email@example.com.