Top choreographers flock to university dance programs because that’s where the money is. Dance departments pay artists to set works, new or vintage, on good student dancers; they provide theaters, costumes, lighting and publicity. Nobody pays the dozens of dancers, who fork over tuition in exchange for the chance to perform.
For the most part, the big new pieces are overdressed and under-lit, and they have sound scores generated by machinery. The gray and black outfits by Ari Fulton (for Abraham’s speedy new “Continuous Relation”) and Brooke Cohen (for Ketley’s “Five Objects (in Isolation and Solitude)”) are attractive and ingenious, but their sheer profusion of design ideas distracts from the dances’ gestural sequences.
Both men and women wear Martin Pakledinaz’s long, tubular skirts in Morris’ “Pacific,” a pointe piece with overtones of religious ritual. To music by Lou Harrison played live on cello, violin and piano, the dancers bob and bow. The 1995 work looks rather stilted. An excerpt from Miller’s “Wonderland” gives the performers permission to go wild, and they do.
The most satisfying dance on the bill turns out to be MFA candidate Shannon Gillen’s sharp, clear quartet “Deep Sequencing,” brightly lit with the performers dressed in tights and tank tops. Sometimes the simplest solution is best.