Anna Myer trained at the Cambridge School of Ballet and danced with Boston Ballet, but the company she founded in 1992, Anna Myer and Dancers, has appeared in an MBTA station and on basketball courts as well as at more traditional venues like the Strand Theatre, the Institute of Contemporary Art, and the Tsai Performance Center. Over the past decade, Myer has created the rap operas “Street Talk, Suite Talk” and “Hoop Suite.” She’s taken her company to Franklin Field in Dorchester and the Lenox Street Housing Development in Roxbury. And with writer and photojournalist Jay Paris, she’s created beheard.world, a “new nonprofit that combines performing arts, film, and advocacy.”
Friday she was back at the ICA to present the world premiere of “Shift,” which promised to explore “the intricate complexity of diverging cultures that have been an essential part of America’s history.”
The first half of the program is a 30-minute flashback, six brief duets from previous Myer works. “Brahms Duet” (2004) puts one woman in a white tutu and the other in a black one, as if they were auditioning for “Swan Lake.” They eye each other warily, wondering are they fellow swans or competitors. Their movement, whether discrete or parallel, is liquid and lyrical, but with quirky, ungainly moments. One minute they’re irreverent; the next, they seem about to pray.
“The Presence of That Absence Duet” (2004), “Invisible Imprints of Racism Duet” (2015), “Hoop Suite Duet” (2013), and “Heartchunks Duet” (1994) convey the same tender ambiguity and humility. The male-female couples circle, explore their personal body language, manage to connect even when they go their separate ways. The music is moderate in tempo, and Myer doesn’t overwork it; there’s no movement without thought. Hands are raised in supplication, or extended to the audience; one dancer will get the other’s attention with a gentle push in the back. The finale, “Heartchunks Child Duet” (1994), brings on Mayra Hernandez and her niece M. B. Borders, in an adorable silent miniature of the parent piece.
The live music for “Shift” is in two halves, first from DJ ReaL PoLitiKz and then from Drew Ricciardi playing a viola transcription of the Chaconne from Bach’s Second Violin Partita. The initial backdrop video image of two evergreens disappears after a minute.The 10 dancers, coming on and off in waves, find a common modern vocabulary, sharp and sinuous, that integrates hip-hop; there’s stomping and even a handstand. Myer makes hip-hopping to Bach seem natural; even when everybody’s doing something different, it all looks like legitimate interpretations of the music. But at 25 minutes, the piece feels long. The dancers don’t partner a lot, or even interact much. They connect in the first half of the program; they perform in “Shift.”
Anna Myer and Dancers / beheard.world
Presented by World Music/CRASHarts. At: Institute of Contemporary Art, Barbara Lee Foundation Family Theater, Friday Nov. 10. Remaining performance Nov. 11. Tickets: $32-$36. 617-876-4275, www.worldmusic.orgJeffrey Gantz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.