Five brief poems of dance for strong women combine in “SECTOR” to provide a map, more or less, of Erin Carlisle Norton’s approach to composition. Like Max (2007) doesn’t show Ohad Naharin’s hand with theatrical spectacle, “SECTOR” won’t clue you into what Norton can do site-specifically. Its five scenes were born separately over the last couple of years, Norton explained after the performance; “SECTOR” is indeed more work-in-series than an evening-length in five parts.
The score is likewise a mixtape, but a good one: Three tracks from percussionist Frank Rosaly’s excellent Milkwork (2010) open the show and meter a portmanteau of Norton’s March of the Oys and Burnshine called, simply, Rosaly. Cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir and sound artist Ryoji Ikeda alternate for the rest of the soundtrack. Transitions are slickly matter-of-fact; after Rosaly ended, dancer Bettina Vaccarello followed three latecomers into the theater, peeled away and began dancing her solo, Verse.
Merce Cunningham fans will feel at home watching Verse, the other solo (Charm, exquisitely danced by Norton) and the two quintets (The Groove, Loneland) that follow. Norton’s choreography isn’t as steadfastly amusical as Cunningham’s — there are occasional, sharp alignments of dance and sound — and though it follows Mercey syntax, Norton’s vocabulary is idiosyncratic. The dancers are periodically overcome with bouts of shaking and quaking; when Angela Luem joins Laura Vinci de Vanegas at the beginning of Rosaly, her walks are mechanically designed but decorated with subtle flutterings of her hands. “SECTOR” shows better than any TMA production yet how Norton uses classic modern-dance transistors to build circuits for today.
Norton and her longtime collaborator in lighting design, Francesca Bourgault, don’t disappoint this longtime fan of their sophisticated sense of color. While Guðnadóttir’s mournful “Whiten” plays, Norton dances Charm bathed in honey from low lights stage right. The bright reds, deep greens, wild oranges and violent violets of the dancers’ costumes for The Groove are splashed from above with rose and salmon. The five dancers in Loneland are the only ones seen in the standard-issue black separates of contemporary dance.
While I miss the look of Norton’s choreography on some powerhouse dancers no longer with her company, the cast of 11 in “SECTOR” all do fine work. Many have grown stronger since the last time I saw them perform. De Vanegas, Luem, Alyssa Gregory and Amanda Timm bring fierce focus to the first scene and Vaccarello interprets Verse with a clean complexity similar to Norton’s own dancing. One wonders what Norton might do with a company of full-time artists.