What do people do when faced with extremes? As part of the second annual Candy Box Dance Festival, which opened Friday night at the Southern Theater, choreographers Taja Will and Carl Flink consider this question from several perspectives, examining whether external or internal forces drive choices. As is often the case in life and art, we find that both do.

Will premiered a piece called "Gospels of Oblivion: To the End," created in collaboration with performers Tim Rehborg and Kathleen Pender, uniting sequins and survivalism for an absorbing exploration into the waning days of humanity, just before extinction. The situation may seem dire, but Will envisions a future where a touch of glamour becomes a coping mechanism for doom.

The dancers react to the tricky emotional terrain by singing, with lyrics penned by Carlisle Evans Peck. There are nods to climate change and capitalism, contributors to the pending downfall.

In Will's disquieting world, the movement references hyper-industriousness, then camaraderie as necessity and, finally, loneliness. Throughout, the dancers invent a secret language for one another to get by.

The work ends with a film and a slowed-down voice reminding us to reflect on beauty. It's a poignant message — if humans became extinct, who would remember our contributions, the good, the bad and the ugly? And if we're the architects of our own demise, who will learn from our faults?

Flink takes a different yet complementary approach with his company, Black Label Movement. In "Hit" (2010), movers Berit Ahlgren, Mirabai Miller, Joey Weaver and Cheng Xiong push, shove and leap into one another. Timing is everything, and they master it (the work was inspired by the volatility of molecules in motion). By contrast, "This Bleeding Heart … " (2001), for eight dancers, shows a more lyrical side, still underscored by Flink's signature athleticism.

In particular, Flink gives us a contrast between competition and compassion. Since the latter is in short supply these days, it makes sense that these two repertory selections challenge us to re-examine our baser and higher natures. Both Will and Flink remind us we are capable of so much, even in the face of chaos and uncertainty. Perhaps this will be humanity's saving grace.

The Candy Box Dance Festival also includes master classes, a panel discussion and happy-hour performances of works in progress by Hatch Dance, Daara Dance, Faux Pas and Alexandra Bodnarchuk.

Caroline Palmer is a Twin Cities dance critic.