Count Shapiro & Smith Dance among several local troupes celebrating big anniversaries in 2012. This past weekend, the company founded by Joanie Smith and the late Danial Shapiro marked a quarter-century with a program at Minneapolis' Cowles Center that celebrated the past while looking optimistically to the future. This sly twist on time travel was most evident in the vibrant world premiere "Voices" and a revival of 1988's darkly funny "Family."
Asking other choreographers to contribute movement phrases might invite aesthetic mish-mash, but "Voices" had a strong cohesive perspective, one that showcased Smith's ability to blend her stylistic idiosyncracies with those of past collaborators Carl Flink, Mathew Janczewski, Wilson Mendieta, Uri Sands and Erin Thompson plus the company members. There were flashes of Flink's lyrical athleticism or Sands' effortless fluidity, for example, but the work was truly a kinetic chorus with disparate parts -- including a deranged tango -- combined into a satisfying whole. Credit is also due to Orange Mighty Trio (Nick Gaudette, Zack Kline and Mike Vasich), whose live music merrily rolled from jazz to cabaret to bluegrass influences, propelling the energized dancers through a rich variety of moods and tempos.
With "Family" the performers relived the childhood tradition of jumping on the furniture -- in this case a chair. The work played with dysfunctional dynamics while highlighting each person's role in the mayhem. Andrew Lester folded his body into the cushions with comic malaise while the hyper Eddie Oroyan and Megan McClellan cart-wheeled off the arms. Laura Selle Virtucio tried to keep order, only to end up rocking in agitation. No one ever rested in the so-called easy chair, a poignant reminder of unease among kin.
The evening also included two recent repertory works. Feisty duo McClellan and Virtucio infused 2011's "Pat A Cake" with an unparalleled level of mean-girl spirit, while "Bolero" (2010) embodied the taut emotional torment underlying Ravel's best-known composition.
A tribute featured video of the company founders dancing with humor, virtuosity and love. Then Smith took her turn on stage, performing excerpts from 2000's "Schtick." The recorded narrative by playwright David Greenspan fretted about how to continue on -- but continued on. This is what Smith has done since losing her partner in life and art six years ago. And she's done it with grace.