Choreographer Chris Dohse sees dance in the pedestrian, "gestural" movements of every day life. A handicapped person getting on a bus, for example, offers him a universe of possibilities when building his work.
When he gauges a dance, "The bottom line is if I see it and it looks like real people then I like it. If it looks [self-consciously] like, 'I'm dancing now,' I don't like it," says Dohse, 31.
On the other hand, Dohse feels removed from the accomplished pyrotechnics of ballet, and much of modern dance. "I'd rather go to the circus and watch a seal balance a ball on his nose," he says. "That is also a little trick that you don't confuse with art; that's entertainment."
This weekend, at the Loose Limbs Choreography Project, Dohse and his Toothmother dance company will perform his "Anyone Who Can Hold a Frying Pan Owns Death," a work that grapples with his hard-won theories about dance and mortality.
Presented by the PATH Dance Company as the final production in its Out on a Limb Dance Festival, Loose Limbs offers six area choreographers -- Dohse, Janette Murphy, Kathi Ferguson, Binnie Ritchie-Holum, Leslie Weiss Tinios and Ilona Kessell -- the opportunity to set dances on a handful of local dancers.
"Frying Pan" -- its title is drawn from a work by writer William F. Burroughs -- has been a long time evolving, and incorporates taped discussions among cast members, a soundtrack by Baltimore composer Linda Smith, film projection and live singing.
The work is informed largely by the reality of AIDS, the grieving process for those who are ill or have already died, and the healing process of those who are able to psychologically overcome the AIDS death sentence and savor life.
Dohse's dance career took a circuitous route. After enrolling at a small Ohio college as an art major, he transferred to the theater department, but stood out as a dance student. He left school midstream to work the summer stock circuit. Eventually, "I realized musical comedy was not it," he says.
Dohse moved to Washington, D.C. where he danced with two modern companies and formed his own. Recently, he moved to Baltimore, but as performer, choreographer and performance artist, Dohse straddles both cities and works as a waiter to make ends meet.
Loose Limbs takes place at 8 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday at St. John's United Methodist Church, St. Paul and 27th streets. Admission is $10 for the general public, $6 for students and senior citizens. Call 367-3843.