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(photo by Rebecca Greenfield)

Maira Kalman looks on as her online graphic diary is brought to life at the BAM Fisher (photo by Rebecca Greenfield)

BAM Fisher, Fishman Space
321 Ashland Pl.
September 27-30, $25

The audience at the BAM Fisher isn’t the only one smiling throughout The Principles of Uncertainty, the lovely multimedia collaboration between choreographer John Heginbotham and author-illustrator Maira Kalman; the musicians and dancers seem to be having just as much fun, if not more. Based on Kalman’s 2006-7 online graphic diary, the hour-long dance-theater piece is infectiously gleeful from start to finish. The sixty-eight-year-old Kalman is onstage the entire show, reciting text, calmly watching from the back, and, yes, dancing with Lindsey Jones, John Eirich, Courtney Lopes, Weaver Rhodes, Amber Star Merkens, and Macy Sullivan (several of whom are from Dance Heginbotham). The baroque and carnivalesque songs are played by music director Colin Jacobsen on violin and viola, Caitlyn Sullivan on cello, Nathan Koci on accordion, and Alex Sopp on flute and vocals. The lively staging puts Kalman in a large movable box, where she’s joined by assistant director Daniel Pettrow for some literary surprises and acerbic comedy; meanwhile, Todd Bryant projects (not enough of) Kalman’s words and drawings on a back wall, and a classical framed painting lies on the floor. (Kalman also designed the set and the costumes.) Heginbotham’s choreography includes repeated pairings: dancers’ foreheads rest against each other, and gentle fists press against knuckles and palms. The set is reconfigured — nearly everything is on wheels — while Nicole Pearce has a ball with different colored lights, and the band, members of the chamber ensemble the Knights, plays works by Bach, Villa-Lobos, Schubert, Beethoven, and Mexican ranchera king José Alfredo Jiménez. “John and I are trying to make something that feels like nothing,” Kalman writes in the program. “Well, not nothing, of course, but the kind of nothing that is full of the sad sweet funny uncertain life we lead.” As an added touch, each seat is covered by a two-sided cloth printed with words from the serious to the silly, the practical to the mundane. But there is nothing mundane about The Principles of Uncertainty, which indeed is a unique look at “the sad sweet funny uncertain life we lead.”

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