Enigmatic Beth Soll; Empire Brass; views of city life; Billie's blues
Imagine a zesty pepperoni pizza. Imagine some smooth vanilla ice cream. Now put them together. That's what Beth Soll does. Miss Soll is Boston's most enigmatic and brilliant dancer-choreographer, and recently she concocted her usual mixture of the humorous, profound, and absurd in five dances at the Boston Shakespeare Company.
Picture this moment in her work ''Masque: Attempts to Fly'': To the romantic strains of Vivaldi, Miss Soll enters, runs forward, and, in discolike freezes, mimics a person attempting to fly - jutting her arms out vainly, a strained expression on her face. The audience roars. Although this is only one of many ingenious details, it is typical of Beth Soll's ability to grasp the essence of the human endeavor and portray it with wit and style.
Her work is dense, complex, provocative: In the premiere of ''Duet for Four Figures,'' she and fellow choreographer Ruth Birnberg dance with three life-size cloth dolls - waltzing, caressing, pulling, and whipping them around the stage. Meanwhile, a line from a novel - ''I awoke to a hand on my face . . .'' - plays at random on a tape loop, while an onstage vocalist sings and chants a cappella. Just when the density of the work is about to overwhelm you, the singer begins playing an enchanting passage on acoustic guitar and the movement eases up on stage.
These sudden switches in intention, feeling, and direction are integral to Miss Soll's work - and leave one somewhat confused much of the time. But over it all there is a sense of the joy of dance - of simply the freedom to move, to experiment, to express - that leaves the viewer uplifted despite the complexity. This was particularly evident at the finish of ''Masque: Attempts to Fly,'' where, after much trying and effort (all wittily depicted), she finally flies, spinning and soaring, a resplendent, easy smile on her face.
Beth Soll and Company will be appearing June 22 at the Publick Theatre in Brighton and July 26 at the Composers in Red Sneakers Concert, Sanders Theatre, Cambridge.