When Portland composer Jack Gabel received a 2005 Oregon Arts Commission fellowship to create a dance score for the dance company headed by his wife, Agnieszka Laska, the daily news was filled with reports about the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. His outrage further fueled by his discovery of the Patriot Act's demolition of fundamental civil rights, Gabel knew he had the subject for what became The Fall '01 , a multimedia dance drama whose U.S. premiere lands on Veterans Day at Imago Theatre.

"I set out to create a work that's not a protest polemic or a poster piece for the peace movement," Gabel explains, "but rather an artistic documentation of an empire at the precipice of its fall. It's the most important thing happening in this time, and to not do something to document it artistically is to really have your head in the sand."

Inspired in part by Benjamin Britten's 1962 War Requiem , which set the antiwar poetry of Wilfred Owen to music, Gabel devised a powerful score accessible to listeners far beyond the core classical music audience. But in this visual age, he wanted to use imagery rather than words to tell the story of our government's "torture gulag." He began collecting video images freely available on the Internet, drew up a storyboard, and enlisted Portland video artist Takafumi Uehara to create a video montage.

Last summer, Gabel's score was performed in concert by some of Portland's finest classical musicians, directed by Oregon Symphony resident conductor Gregory Vajda, and Laska and her Mexican colleague Luis Arreguín completed the choreography. After several U.S. venues declined to stage it, Arreguín's company, Las Pléyades Danza Contemporánea, premiered The Fall '01 in Mexico on the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11.

The Fall '01 uses familiar imagery (flag-draped coffins, "Mission Accomplished," camo-clad dancers) and gripping music to portray the brutal results of a deceitful government's manipulation of a national tragedy. Even for those all too aware of the events that inspired it, this creative collaboration reaches us in a way that newspapers, books and congressional testimony can't.


Imago Theatre, 17 SE 8th Ave., 232-7210, a-laska.com, thefall01.info. 8 pm Sunday, Nov. 11. $10 and up, military veterans admitted free.