Bill Young/Colleen Thomas & Co.: Interleaving | ★★★★
Natalie Marrone & The Dance Cure: Thresh | ★★ ½
Saturday, June 24
Reynolds Industries Theater, Durham

A dance can look like a book, but it doesn’t have to. Dances proceed from their own artistic logics and create their own forms. To “read” a dance like a written text—to equate their material forms in a single interpretive approach—risks flattening embodied gestures to glyphs. But some of the most interesting movement-based work borrows from neighboring genres, incorporating other idioms in its technical foundation and playing with disciplinary categories. Bill Young’s Interleaving is one of these works.

“Interleaving” is a publishing term; it refers to the process of inserting pages, usually blank, into the existing pages of a book. Young’s thirty-year-old work, revised and performed by Young and Colleen Thomas’s company at the American Dance Festival last week, stitches together four of his dances—Wall Unfolding, Music Minus One, Double Bill, and Sambosamba—in a “serial fashion.” The beginnings of each dance play out in sequence, then the middles, then the ends. As one group of dancers balance and pivot in the background, another enters in darkness at the front of the stage. I’m reminded of the opening lines of Kenneth Koch’s “One Train May Hide Another”: “In a poem, one line may hide another line,/ As at a crossing, one train may hide another train.” The two movement scores carry on, covering each other but ultimately creating little windows in which new pairings take shape.

Everything is lovely to behold: the ways the dancers’ arms poke and float just in front of and behind them as they arabesque and jump; the tender and odd partnering in which a woman is carried offstage upside-down and Young and Thomas perform a social dance while lying on the floor; and the two-piece costumes by Rachel Jones Bellas, whose colorful geometries receive the stage light just right. This is a dance that washes over you. Like Young, I must reach for textual metaphors to describe it. When Lauren Ferguson solos under a strobe light, it’s like paging through a flipbook in slow-motion. I would see this work again and again, each time having another chance to, in Koch’s words, “see what was already there.”

The evening began with a short work, Thresh, by North Carolina-based Natalie Marrone & The Dance Cure. (Thresh was chosen for inclusion in the festival by a jury of local arts presenters.) The duet featured Rachel Mehaffey and Lucas Melfi, two strong emerging performers who we recently saw in Renay Aumiller Dances’ boneGlow. They navigated pools of wheat strewn across the stage and righted themselves atop two bales, arms fidgeting as if replicating the movements of a machine. The image fits: the program notes suggest that Thresh is concerned with the cultivation of wheat, particularly during a “more agrarian time.” But the phrasing here is vague, and the dance’s import is, too.

Correction: This post originally misidentified the dancer who soloed under a strobe light. It was Lauren Ferguson, not Cori Kresge.