Patient Spider, which premiered in January with the U-M's University Dance Company, is a knockout. Inspired by a few lines of Walt Whitman's "A Noiseless Patient Spider," and accompanied by J. S. Bach's undulating Sonata no. 3 in C Major for solo violin, it's an extended choral pattern of elastic stretching, reaching, leaping, and falling. Floating above the live dancers onstage, a large video screen projects a synchronized performance by the same group. Often the two watch or mirror each other, creating an entrancing interplay of scale and kinesthetic connection. As the dancers enact a multilayered counterpoint of personal awakening and transcendent yearning, Bach's polyphonic intervals make one violin sound like two, echoing the duality of the transfiguration motif.
Named for and inspired by Sparling's elementary school in Detroit, The Dossin Variations (music by Frank Pahl) derives from Sparling's collaboration last year with architect Ronit Eisenbach and video artist Terri Sarris on an installation at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Reconceived as a fleshed-out piece of choreography, the dancers jump, skip, lunge, raise their hands, and goof off in a "classroom" of chalkboards and chairs. The everyday actions of children are distilled in this thematic study of memory, regression, and growth.