A happy marriage between live blues and modern dance can't involve swishy arm waving in the Jules Feiffer cartoon mode. But the pairing works if the choreographer is willing to indulge in some quirks, as Hedwig Dances artistic director Jan Bartoszek does in Blues Dances. Noted Chicago pianist Erwin Helfer and saxophonist John Brumbach provide the live accompaniment, some four or five wordless songs that range from upbeat boogie-woogie to slower, more winding tunes. The music forms a deep, purling river for the dancers to ride, and Bartoszek wisely opts for lots of muscular partnering by her ensemble of seven, augmented by more gestural phrases: the dancers retreat, flexing their wrists with palms to the audience, or lie prone with ankles hooked around the ankles of dancers who drag them along. Especially quirky and evocative is a solo for Victor Alexander, who turns his eyes to us in a sly, mysterious way or pulls himself here and there by his own pants leg. The other new works on the program are Renee Wadleigh's One, Two (and a Half), Three, using a live overhead video feed, and Sheldon B. Smith's How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb, a deeply strange female trio that like Stanley Kubrick's 1964 Dr. Strangelove unites silly humor and absolute horror. Each dancer babbles in a different tongue—English, Spanish, or Chinese—erupting from time to time into ear-piercing screams. There's a palpable sense of doom intensified by quotes from infomercials for feel-good products. Also on the program is Jin-Wen Yu's delicious Duet #1, performed last fall by the Seldoms.
Hedwig Dances Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 S. Michigan, 312-344-8300. Opens Thursday, March 25, 8 PM. $16-$20. Through March 27: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM. $19-$24. Note: A company benefit begins at 6 PM Friday; $75 includes the performance. And there will be a family-oriented matinee Saturday at 3 PM; $10, $6 for children.