Seattle's On the Boards presents dance work by German-born Tanja Liedtke.

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Dance Review |

The name of the new show at On the Boards is “construct” — a word you can take as a noun or verb or simple imperative. (“Construct something, pronto!”).

However you take it, it’s a stunning piece of dance theater, especially in its opening sequences. It’s also cause for mourning — because its choreographer-director, German-born Tanja Liedtke, died at age 29 in an absurdly cruel road accident just after being appointed artistic director of Sydney Dance Company. While trying to walk off a case of late-night insomnia, she was hit by a truck.

It says something for the springy, restive power of her last work that it’s impossible to focus on her loss until the show is over. While “construct” is zipping along onstage, it’s just too lively and inventive to make its creator’s death seem credible.

The show evokes the makeshift worlds we try to build out of whatever comes to hand: two-by-fours, carnival lights, masking tape, live bodies. It starts with one goofily grinning lad (Paul White) doing his best to cope with two women in urgent need of support. Not emotional support — physical support. The women (Kristina Chan and Alessandra Mattana) are stiff as boards and in constant danger of toppling over.

From there, Liedtke offers pleasures galore: strength that doesn’t look like strength, stand-on-your-head foot juggling, hula-influenced torso twining (with brief nudity) and extraordinary body articulation (down to the last waggling digit).

She’s also an intuitive delight on the allure and entrapment of building physical and psychological shelter. You couldn’t ask for better dancers. My only quibble: the movement-theater-flavored sequences can’t quite compete with the dance and gymnastic prowess of Chan, White and Mattana.

This will be the only North American staging of “construct.” But it’s being filmed in HD for future broadcast on On the Boards’ upcoming online video-on-demand series, OtBTV. Keep tuned.

Michael Upchurch: