Saturday, March 29, 2014
DANCENOW at SteelStacks
by Jennifer McKeever
A partnership between Arts Quest at Steel Stacks and DANCENOW presented a vibrant evening of performance art featuring Bridgman/Packer Dance this past weekend. Artistic directors, Myrna Packer and Art Bridgman choreographed and performed two undoubtedly singular pieces unlike any this reviewer has seen before.
The pair coordinated a very different style of dance with grace and surprise. Projectors were placed at the footlights. The combination of projected images behind the dancers and onto the dancers themselves created intriguing illusions and shadow play. Letters flashed across the screen at high speed as images of the dancers were captured as their shadows appeared standing on the letters floating upward and out of sight. Slats of black curtains created a way for the pair to move off and onto the stage as their shadows followed. The intricate patterns of movement and imagery began to coalesce in a pace that accelerated to a point of excitement and a heightened sensory overload such that it was hard to distinguish between what was real versus projected. The music by Ken Field was integral in the beauty of this piece with syncopated saxophones in a funky groove as they danced with each other and their projected versions of themselves.
Another segment of the piece called "Under the Skin," began with a red spotlight as Packer stood stationary wearing a wired hoop skirt. Packer's legs glowed red. Bridgman stood on the other side of the stage dressed the same. As one of them lifted their skirt, suddenly the image of the other appeared on the interface of the wide fabric of the skirt. Starting with isolation of legs then head, the focus could be on one dancer even as both were visible. Bridgman then had an image of another man projected onto his torso and skirt, dressing and undressing. By the end of this visual sequence, Bridgman suddenly stood in a spotlight as himself without any video, took off his skirt and shirt and was fully dressed with a dress shirt, tie and pants awarding instant applause.
The second work "Voyeur", based on the paintings of Edward Hopper, utilized a three dimensional approach that truly challenged the senses.
The audience was invited to explore the set with its high-end video technology and set design. The surroundings had the feel of being a child in a carnival funhouse. Several vignettes unfolded with a continuity of isolation, cat and mouse games in a cubist-like world. Packer appears in doorways and windows and is chased by her own image and also literally by Bridgman. The piece evolves with the characters transported through times and locations by a montage of projected images, from scenes in a garden to a café to the edge of the sea. The noise and sounds of shifting reflected the movement until it culminated into a duet danced to a big band arrangement as they finally found themselves and each other.
Each seat in the audience provided a different point of view of the work, providing an enlightening perspective that was special to every individual witnessing this expansive and diverse work of art. The execution was precise because of the delicate and extraordinary use of multi media effects. The pair had a quality of substance and expertise but with a subtle hint of restraint to simply leave the audience in awe and true admiration.