In recent dances he has addressed 9/11, domestic violence, the costs of war, and the vagaries of artistic fame. In his newest work, "The Theatre of Needless Talents," Donald Byrd, artistic director of Seattle's Spectrum Dance Theater, and one of our most fearless choreographers, has taken on the daunting task of addressing the Holocaust. He has succeeded admirably, creating an important new work that is among the finest of his career. The evening, described as "dance, theatrical vignettes, and cabaret," is homage to the Jewish artists who, though imprisoned in Nazi death camps, managed to create, perform, and bring hope to themselves and to fellow inmates. It is a series of powerful and eloquent sequences, many introduced by brief commentary spoken by individual dancers, and drawn from the words of artists and others of the time. These searing and evocative segments have endlessly inventive partnering and thrilling movement phrases, and they resonate with the horror and the absurdity of the situation in which these artists found themselves. Much credit for the work's success must be given to the 12 Spectrum dancers, supported by wonderful scenic and lighting design by Jack Mehler. The dance is set to the music of Erwin Schulhoff and performed live by the fine musicians of the Northwest Sinfonietta Trio. Schulhoff, a Czech-born composer who died in 1942 at age 48 at Wulzberg concentration camp, was a victim of his Jewish ancestry and his radical politics, his art having been labeled as "degenerate" by the Nazi rulers. His music, rediscovered in the last decade by new generations of artists and audiences, draws from many sources (modernism, neoclassicism, jazz, and dance music), and it provided a wonderful score for the different facets of the choreography. Viewers might fear the demands of a work on the subject of the Holocaust, given the temptation to overwrought emotions or sentimentality. Byrd can be a dance maker of operatic proportions, fashioning pieces that at times are too insistent, with an over-abundance of kinetic punch. Yet with this most wrenching of material, he has created a nuanced and measured work that reveals another facet of his considerable choreographic skills. It is an inspiring dance, reminding us of the power of art not to change events, for that can be beyond its domain, but to reflect upon them. "The Theater of Needless Talents," the title from an eponymous group of Czech performers in the 1930s, will undoubtedly be seen in theaters far larger than the Spectrum dance studio where it was viewed Friday evening, February 22. Yet there was something about sitting so close to the performers, hearing their heavy breathing, seeing so closely their young faces, and observing every nuance of bodies at work that lent additional poignancy. It reminded me of the vigor and passion of the creative spirit and of the human body. But it also spoke of their ephemeral nature and fragility when those who wish us evil come to power. "The Theater of Needless Talents" is a work of urgency and intelligence, made even more so by the thought that genocide and brutal repression did not end with the Nazis; the world community remains as susceptible to it today as we did 70 years ago. The final performances are at Spectrum's Studio Theater in Madrona next Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, February 29-March 2.