Gather, a new dance-music piece, professes its mission with buzzwords like interdependence, isolation, connection, division, collaboration and community. Such a jargon-y catalog is unsurprising from dancer-choreographer Tere Mathern and drummer-composer Tim DuRoche, frequent collaborators and both cerebral players in their fields. In execution, Gather is certainly brainy—marked by sharp composition, pointed choreography and the heady flurry of improvisation—and at points draining. But it also offers moments of kinetic and musical release, when its lofty manifesto is best forgotten.
Mathern is known for analytical and even architectural choreography, showcased in Gather. The six dancers best convey the piece's mission as they continually break from static tableaus to reflective solos, powerful duets and trios, and to frenetic union. Dressed simply, they dart about the studio and between the musicians—Mathern keeps the audience's eyes constantly moving. They create spaces through which others slither their torsos and wend their limbs, arms intertwining like tangled telephone cords. Angular rigidity plays off soft roundness as fiercely bent legs meet curved arms. Though the careful choreography can feel repetitive or empty of character or narrative, moments of improvisation create a nervous but appealing energy. Is a collision intentional or unplanned? Or is it somewhere in between, inevitable but still surprising?
Two duets stand out. Kristine Anderson and Éowyn Emerald Barrett move with astounding purpose and dynamism, milking the patterns of tension and release: Anderson shoots into an arabesque, and Barrett catches her leg, repeatedly tugging and pushing. It's a delightful fight between resistance and surrender. Another duet, between the petite Mathern and the statuesque Lyra Butler-Denman, plays with the dancers' size differences as they lean against and push off one another.
Meanwhile, DuRoche (drums) and his ensemble Battle Hymns & Gardens (two saxophonists and a bassist) play a propulsive, jazzy score. In one playful spot, the two saxophonists experiment with honking at the floor, at the wall, at each other. Like the audible train whistles (Conduit is located four floors above a MAX station) and the dancers' unexpected moments of contact, these sax blasts startle, collide and delight—no lofty thesis needed.
SEE IT: Gather is at Conduit Dance, 918 SW Yamhill St., Suite 401, 221-5857. 8 pm Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 1-3. $14-$17.