If you make tracks you can catch one of these on Saturday night, when Pilobolus closes its 2007 ADF stand with what is easily the strongest work we’ve seen from them in years. That would be the world premiere of Rushes, Robby Barnett’s collaboration with Israel’s Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak.

As the sound of a shortwave radio suggests just how far they are from any real entertainment, a hapless, rural sextet waste another evening–until, that is, an enigmatic, hunched-over man with a heavy suitcase filled with something literally dreams something better.

True, Rushes threatens early on to bog down in fruitless preoccupation with surface eccentricities. Thankfully it heads into deeper waters not a moment too soon. Imaginative, touching, humorous, and strangely humane, it’s not the first time Inbal Pinto has carted us off to a foreign land, and only brought us part way back. Didn’t David Byrne once say of these characters:

and you dreamed it all

and dreams tell your story

do you know who you are

you’re the dream operator

Before that, B’zyrk rings true with its tale of backstage bickering among an extremely long-touring group of modern dancers and choreographers — I mean Eastern European carnival artistes. Cheap laughs give way to something a bit more bitter, in sections where the characters contrast their ideals of one another with a considerably shabbier reality. Call Jonathan Wolken’s work “knowing.” To say the least.

But last night saw the only scheduled performances — at least at this time — of Lisa Race‘s deeply moving Garden: Retreat. If you were at the 7:30 performance, you either had a little extra moisture yourself around the eyes by the end, or you heard the tell-tale sniffles around you of all the people who did.

When we talked a couple of days before, Race said, “My parents are in their later 80s. My son, Sam, will soon be six. I’m at an age now where I’m thinking about lifespan. I’ve been looking at my mother and her older sister; how they both have gone through their later years, their different ways of exiting.”

She continued,”At first I thought I was doing this for them. Then I realized, no, this was for me. I’m preparing myself for the reality of the future.

The sober intimacy of Race and David Dorfman’s close-eyed, careful contact at the open conveyed, in an understated way, a couple trying to comfort one another. As the work developed, Race’s meditation on the ground we grow from — and ultimately return to — culminated in a moment I have never seen truly work on stage before.

After their final, tender dance with one another, Race and Dorfman disengaged — and went out to the audience to take new partners in the same dance. Those new partners in turn found others. Again, and again.

It seems that every time audience participation figures in a work, it never truly overcomes the division between the performance’s world and ours. It’s always at least a little cheesy. Everybody knows.

Except for Friday night. We were invited to join in the dance we all must take a turn in; to take our place, with grace, in the ballroom of our common loss.

It felt like an unexpected and very sudden family reunion. We were there to share the load. We belonged there. This time, the song in my mind was Lyle Lovett’s:

we’re all gonna be here forever

so Mama don’t make such a stir

just put down that camera

and come on and join up

the last of the family reserve

How about you?