After seven years of hibernation, Derek Jay-Son Rusch and Mary Tisa (together, Jay-Son Tisa Dance) have a lot to say. The choreographers resurfaced for a two-night engagement at the Center on Halsted's top floor venue, revealing a little of what may have happened during that time away in ten new pieces on Saturday. That sounds overwhelming, but the ten tiny dances were sort of like tapas: Small plates, satisfying little morsels of movement, which captured a feeling for a few moments, and then moved on to the next good thing.
Rusch and Tisa's work is cohesive to the point that, had I not known, I would have thought this was the work of a single choreographer. Seven years ago, there was a flurry of small dance companies with a similar aesthetic to theirs, but Jay-Son Tisa is filling a bit of a gap by coming back on the scene now. Both choreographers make ooey-gooey contemporary dances that feel good to watch and look like they feel good to dance. Even better, perhaps, in a larger space, for while the duets and trios fit quite nicely in the Center on Halsted's intimate Hoover-Leppen Theatre, the group works did not. With as many as seven dancers on stage, and several lanky, big movers, these performers needed room to stretch out and let their formations and delightful phrase work breathe.
Each dance was preceded and followed by text projected on the back wall introducing the title, choreographer, and a cluster of key words alluding to its meaning. Considered together, the pieces form a loose narrative that touches on love and loss, community and solitude, regimented routine and moments of novelty. Tisa, Rusch, and guest choreographer Amanda Ramirez demanded technical panache from the cast, and asked for intricate partnering and tireless transitions in and out of the floor.
The evening felt personal, serious, and smart. And it was beautiful (thanks in part to beguiling, but overplayed, music selections from Max Richter, Arvo Part, etc.), but resisted against any hint of angsty catharsis by hiding the deeper meanings with dancing.
And that's ok. Strong composition and good dancers needn't reveal every detail of the story, no matter how important it feels to the choreographer. It's like supply and demand. If you'll indulge me once more with a tapas analogy, a perfect bite can be far more satisfying than the all-you-can-eat pasta platter at the Olive Garden. I guess the real question is, now what? Jay-Son Tisa has re-emerged. Will you toy with our emotions and retreat once again, or use this bit of momentum to give us more goodies?