Bonachela’s new creation begins with calm, silent (without even music) gesturing from the whole company gathered on stage. The gestures seem as organized and complex as a sign language but are not really comprehensible except for a gist, at least not until later, a bit like when a (wild) parrot lands on your balcony railing and starts chattering to you, very slightly reproachful when you don’t give the proper response in the same language. For the first half, the dancers wear plain gray body stockings of varying length with vivid lime green zippers up the back (see photo), almost as if they were wind up toys or soft animals with music boxes. The scene gives way to a more frenetic one with unsettled, fraught music, more electronic sounds, sometimes recalling a jackhammer, or thunder, or like some science fictional machine. Even where the music sounds a bit video gamish and repetitive, the choreography manages to retain its humanity, though the movements can be combative — the high sudden kicks give a little jolt of comic bookishness and though this movement is used too often so its effect is diluted, the dancing manages to veer away from falling into any such mundane tendency. In fact, the piece has much more to it generally than these stylized fights, as alarming and sensational as they are. The movements are rarely naturalistic, only in brief lingering gestures or flashes — a reach towards the other partner, a quarter roll prostrate on the floor, a weightier dropping movement of despair or just release or what have you, or letting the other partner, both man and woman at different times, provide all of the support. The photos here give a very good feel of the work, though it is not so posed as they might lead one to think; theses “poses” are fleeting. Where there is a clichéd gesture — an unsubtle one-shoulder shrug, a splayed crouch, one of those exaggerated martial arts-style high kicks — it is very brief and there is so much going on at once in the multiple groups of dancers so often on the stage, each has their own steps and movements in the detailed and intricate choreography.
On Palm Sunday there was a remarkable Boston Conservatory concert of music by Jan Swafford. Swafford is widely known for his books on Charles Ives and Brahms, and The Vintage Guide to Classical Music. He is known locally also for many fine program notes and pre-concert talks for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Swafford has been writing music going back to the 1970s and has had performances in many places and won awards for this work. The recent concert centered around the cello, magnificently played—even heroically, considering the amount and intensity of the material—by Emmanuel Feldman, who was joined variously by his excellent colleagues in the Omega Trio, violinist Eva Gruesser and pianist George Sebastian Lopez