Scene designer Etta Lilienthal creates a world of possibilities for the Maureen Whiting Company in the new dance "Myth of Me and You."

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Dance Review |

To create an alternative reality in the theater, it helps to have a stage full of possibilities.

In Maureen Whiting Company’s new dance-theater piece, “Myth of Me and You,” performed in the round at ACT Theatre, the possibilities — created by scene designer Etta Lilienthal — are there from the start.

The six-sided stage, painted white, has a plexiglass trap-door in its center (leading where?). At one edge of the stage is a tall wooden ramp (for romper room activities?). On the other side is a tall glass table with a container of honey on it (left there by mistake?).

Large pale crumpled plastic spheres hover up by the ceiling mostly, but with half a dozen suspended just above the floor. These semi-animate presences sway and bob on breezes breathed out by the theater’s air-conditioning system.

Nestled among the floor-level spheres is a faunlike figure raptly staring into the plexiglass trap-door. At the top of the ramp, a blonde sprite perches, poised as if for a slide or, perhaps, a flight into the rafters.

The lights dim. The faun starts to move. And the dance commences — from any and all directions.

“Myth of Me and You” is an elusive, otherworldly piece: wordless, hermetic, very pure. Drawing on animal movement, tribal dance moves and dream logic, it walks at the very edge of sense. If you hanker for a story in dance, or even recognizable emotions and psychology, you won’t get them here — but you do get rhythm and pattern, shape and contrast, surprises and momentum.

Dancers Ezra Dickinson, Marissa Niederhauser, Cassie Wulff and Belle Wolf are in artful tune with Whiting’s half-human, half-totemic world. If you feel puzzled while you’re watching them, then watch them watch each other. There’s something downright feral in the way they eye one another with a wary, attentive regard, like a predator calmly taking a bead on its prey. Though they’re creaturelike, they’re several different kinds of creature — and sometimes at cross purposes.

Still, in the last passage of this hourlong show, they start to coalesce. The disconnect between them dissolves as they face a mysterious challenge and make a certain progress. By evening’s end, a threshold has been reached — and something has evolved.

Whiting’s movement ranges from hip-shakes and swivels to finger flutters and odd contorted folds and crawls. The lighting and musical score are crucial in infusing the action with a trancelike coherence. The fanciful costumes are the final touch, lending an elfin, mutant air to the performers as they do their stuff.

As for what it all means, it may be nothing more (or less) than a nature study — whether that “nature” be human, avian, marsupial or reptilian.

Michael Upchurch: