Compagnie Marie Chouinard
PSU's Lincoln Hall, 1620 SW Park, 725-3307, Oct 13-15, 8 pm, $14-25

Choreographers are painters of motion—the stage is their canvas, the dancers their brushes. But for Montreal's Marie Chouinard, the stage is a diorama, and the dancers are the little pieces of fuzz-covered wire that get twisted into whatever strange, hilarious, or terrible shape her heart desires.

When local dance promoters White Bird last brought Chouinard's company to town (January 2003), a friend described them to me as "simultaneously the most beautiful and terrifying thing I have ever seen." What terrified that poor soul, I believe, was not the primal howls that escaped Chouinard's anguished cast as they prowled the stage, nor the nightmarish black electrical-tape outfits that adorned their bodies. I believe what frightened my friend so was Chouinard's unparalleled knack for making her performers seem like unfortunate pawns in some hellish game. Effortless, exotic dancers all of them, they moved about the stage as if remote-controlled by a lunatic, their graceful movements disrupted by frightening lapses into animalistic spine contortions, or desperate flurries of foot tapping, arm waving, or screaming.

For this weekend's Portland performance, Chouinard, who once indulged in solo work involving public masturbation, presents a new full-evening dance, bODY_rEMIX/gOLDBERG_vARIATIONS, set to Bach's "Goldberg Variations" and original music by Louis Dufort. The piece incorporates props into Chouinard's gorgeously bleak vision. Ballet bars turn into the appendages of a struggling duo, stomping and clacking furiously in an attempt to escape each other. Crutches protrude from unexpected body cavities, turning movement into an entirely alien thing; a shoe clutched in the hand turns a swarm of otherwise angelic dancers into something menacing and strange. Chainsaw-like drones and chillingly altered vocal samplings provide the disembodied soundtrack.

"I wanted to destroy something beautiful," Edward Norton once stated in the film Fight Club. So did Marie Chouinard. Only she didn't finish the job, and the remnants of her once-perfect dancers flicker through their broken facades, showing the loveliness of once was, promising the terrors of what will be.