Imagine a person is trapped inside a cloth sack and stretching the surface trying to get out from the inside. That's what the sculptures adorning the stage of Oslund's newest work Childhood Star look like. The show was commissioned by local dance presenter White Bird and premiered last night as part of Portland's Fertile Ground festival (read WW's big preview on the festival here). In constantly transitioning patterns, Portland-based choreographer Mary Oslund's dancers model what kind of chaos and bodily force might be trapped inside one of those sculptures. Set designer Christine Bourdette's pseudo-body forms are pushed and pulled across the stage, morphing at the will of the dancers' erratic movement.

Amid the amorphous set, dancers quiver, sway and fidget their way through Darrin Verhagen's quiet and dreamy soundscape. First four dancers attempt the same movements, then a fleet of dancers each move independently, and then separate groups follow disparate rhythms. But when the dancers continued to move after the music stopped–or completely changed formation in the middle of a song–the show lost some of its much needed structure.more

With no discernible crescendo, Childhood Star casts a mood, rather than transports viewers. The mindless zone of visual pleasure it creates is almost as eerie as the show's sterile and uncanny sculptures. But on Thursday night the work's subtle, monotonous beauty was disrupted by a lack of synchronicity at times when unison was clearly the desired effect. Quiet and steady, Childhood Star straddles the line between subtle and flat. The show isn't perfect, but it can definitely offer 40 minutes of tranquilizing enjoyment.

Childhood Star was actually one of two performances White Bird presented last night. The evening began with Drift, a short piece choreographed and danced by Keely McIntyre, who also appeared in Childhood Star. In the piece Keely and Noel Plemmons (POV Dance) first appear onstage stacked atop one another. Their synchronicity is interrupted when one dancer controls the other or when they both move freely across the stage. At the end they meld back in sync and return to their starting position–this time at opposite ends of the stage. Shorter and simpler than Childhood Star, Drift conveys subtle beauty, which might have been what Oslund had in mind for her larger, more complex work.

GO: Oslund + Co/Dance's Childhood Star at Lincoln Hall, Portland State University, 1620 SW Park Ave., 242-1419. 8 pm Friday-Saturday, Jan. 21-22. $18-$28. EndFragment