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Running, Jumping, Standing, Staring, Don Hogan Charles, New York Times on the web 2006.03.04

The performers who grace Martine Pisani's sans appear to be examples of Everyman, yet despite their casual street clothes and lightheartedly awkward movement, they are articulate, virtuosic dancers to the core. The piece's three stars — Theo Kooijman, Laurent Pichaud and Olivier Schram — use a barren stage to create a landscape of chance encounters. The problem is that in Ms. Pisani's seemingly droll world, everything translates but the humor. It's like watching Monty Python dubbed in French.

Created in 2000 by Ms. Pisani, a choreographer based in Paris, the work places the emphasis on the French word sans (without). Lacking music, the dance is also missing a set and a story line, which is hardly extraordinary in this day and age. Nevertheless, the Joyce Theater and Danspace Project united to present sans, seen Thursday at the Joyce SoHo, an intimate theater chosen to provide a close-knit relationship between the performers and the audience.

The purposeful, playful movement is presented as a constant cycle of attempt and recovery: dancers walk sideways, their equilibrium shaken, only to stop cold. They play leapfrog, mimic gusts of wind by blowing on one another and jump up and down like jackrabbits, their disjointed body parts dangling in lasting reverberations. But they spend just as much time standing side by side at the front of the stage staring at the crowd, their eyes darting with bemusement.

Mr. Schram, compact and forthright, serves as the straight man to Mr. Kooijman, rubbery and cartoonish (in an amusing way), and Mr. Pichaud, a riveting performer with the uncanny ability to transform into different characters depending on his deadpan expression or generous smile. They leave the stage for several moments, only to re-emerge having traded shirts and, near the end of the work, repeat the entire dance at breakneck speed. When they resume their positions at the front of the stage — staring imploringly — the audience, reacting to the silence uncomfortably, applauds. Playtime is over.

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