A Holy Body Tattoo and National Arts Centre coproduction. At the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre on Friday, April 1. No remaining performances

In its frantic new work, the Holy Body Tattoo cleverly mixes jacked-up everyday gestures with brain-tweaking video, music, and projected text. But despite such sensory bombardment, it's one simple staging device that takes the Vancouver company to monumental new heights.

Nine dancers in officewear contort, twitch, and stamp their feet atop rectangular pillars. Those white boxes provoke endless readings: at times they seem like spotlit gallery plinths holding moving statues; at others, they're illuminated to suggest a city skyline. They trap each dancer on his or her own lonely island of torment, yet symbolically elevate the common man. They also create unthinkable challenges for the performers, who must execute HBT's legendary physical endurance tests on a 50-by-50-centimetre block. And scattered at varying heights across the stage, they just look cool.

Cool is a word that's often applied to the troupe, whether it's banging bodies on the floor in Poetry & Apocalypse or steaming up the tango in Circa. Here, HBT explores its now-familiar theme of the individual caught in the urban rush, but in this, the first time cofounders Dana Gingras and Noam Gagnon have not performed in a full-length work, they find a new poignancy amid the angst. Their dancers repeat and intensify quotidian gestures. Imagine nail-chewing, head-scratching, hair-smoothing, and obsessive-compulsive hand-wringing cranked to warp speed. Sporadically, these working stiffs contain their anxious fidgeting and pull themselves together as a group, marching in unison atop their pillars.

Thankfully, the group finally breaks free of its pedestals. The dancers eventually spin into violent couplings that devolve into one person using every limb to hold down another who's wildly struggling.

Monumental wouldn't work without a fearlessly committed ensemble. Appropriately, each performer brings an individual style, whether it's Andrea Gunnlaugson's honed veteran skill, Sonja Perreten's fresh, high-energy movement, or Blair Neufeld's ability to morph into an Average Joe. It's difficult to single anyone out, but the sight of Day Helesic swinging wildly from forced composure to head-banging breakdown is a standout moment.

As with HBT's other larger-scale works, the dance is inseparable from the music and multimedia imagery. Roger Tellier-Craig's soundscape builds the gritty-city mood, sampling everything from clanging tribal-style rhythms to Godspeed You! Black Emperor's epic postrock. Gingras and Skinny Puppy alumnus William Gibson's hypnotic videos of overpasses and churning windmills add to the effect. But the most haunting layer of audiovisual meaning comes courtesy of conceptual artist Jenny Holzer, whose enigmatic aphorisms on the human condition ("It takes a while before you can step over inert bodies and go ahead with what you were trying to do") appear and disappear on a back screen.

Altogether, HBT's nerve-racking vision speaks to a vast audience because it encompasses almost every common contemporary angst, from office power struggles to sexual insecurity to apocalyptic, post-9/11 fears. And that is definitely a monumental achievement.