Jordana Toback, who could pass for a brunette Janis Joplin, combines coruscating portraits of womenalone and in bawdy, blustering relationshipswith recordings by Tom Waits, Louis Armstrong, Jacques Brel, Errol Garner, Woody Guthrie, and Alice Dona. Poured into skintight leather or Lycra, barefoot or teetering in fuck-me pumps, her hand in her crotch, on her hip, or clutching her breast, she's a desperate character in Ruby, and the leader of a pair of tiny acolytes (Sadie Minkoff and Vanessa Walters) in Let's Go Thundering. The three women careen around the stage, making lonely altars of their discarded shoes, as a too-loud whiskey voice sings "She's so good she makes a dead man come." You end up feeling you've drunk too much and can't remember where you are, let alone which decade this is.
In the final work on the bill the temptress faces off against a worthy companion and really dances. Karl Anderson, who has shown his own gallery of grotesques at Dance Theater Workshop, teams with Toback in Little Sugar, replacing D.J. Mendel who created the male role. To a sound collage composed of Guthrie's children's songs intercut with often obscene dialogue, the pair play bright-eyed peasants, she in a red circle skirt with a little apron, clog- dancing in heavy black shoes. They'd just as soon hurt as love one another, and that inchoate emotional landscape keeps our attention high as they essay various games, like letting Toback provide the arms for Anderson's body to "Take Me for a Ride in the Car, Car'.' He sits on the floor; she boldly dances for him, undulating; she wipes his face and applies makeup to it. They serve as each other's playthings and playmates, and the raucous seductiveness of their interactions closes a circle only hinted at in Toback's solo and girl-group numbers.
Aerialist Chelsea Bacon opened the program, suspended inside a loop of rope, in a terrific, very Downtown trapeze act resembling nothing so much as whole-body cat's cradle. The "spring series" launched with this show runs through June 19.