"ALCHEMY," RIRIE-WOODBURY DANCE COMPANY, Wednesday, Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center; additional performances today through Saturday (355-2787)

When a bundle of rags fell and began to crawl across the stage, the audience knew this Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company performance Wednesday morning was going to be different.

The company's six dancers rise to the occasion and execute the works with an ease that is sometimes deceiving, considering the technicality of each work.

Co-artistic director Joan Woodbury's world premier "La Petite 'Rag"' opens the performance with a whimsical study of movement. Erin Lehua Brown (covered in layers of torn material) moves like an amoeba, but along with her body, the movement comes with the rise and fall of each strand of rag, giving the work an almost "Star Trek" alien feel.

Douglas Nielsen's 1991 "Inky Deep" is an intense acrobatic work that examines the anomic waves that wash over someone who has lost a loved one.

One of the more spine-tingling works of the program is Mary Wigman's revolutionary 1926 work "Hexentanz (Witch Dance)." Elizabeth Kelley, who dons the creepy Japanese Noh theaterlike white mask and red robes, ritualistically spins, stomps and glides across the stage to live percussion by Mason Aeschbacher.

Joe Goode's 1998 "Spite" incorporates movements with sessions of spoken-word monologues.

The last two works, co-artistic director Shirley Ririe's "Silken Tears" and associate artistic director Charlotte Boye-Christensen's "Lost," address sociological issues of governing and gangs.

"Silken Tears," created in 2001, features dancer Ai Fuji in a silk kimono. The sleeves are extended to represent tears, a straitjacket and a river.

The flowing work was inspired by China's reacquisition of Hong Kong in 1997.

The world premiere of "Lost" is Boye-Christensen's commentary on art created by gang members and illegal aliens.

Strength and pacing is the secret to this frenzied, provocative and in-the-face work that has the dancers reaching and leaping to find a sense of belonging.

"Alchemy" finds Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company finding new choreographic outlets while maintaining the modern-dance tradition.

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