By Christian Viveros-Fauné
By Miriam Felton-Dansky
By Tom Sellar
By Tom Sellar
By Jessica Dawson
By Tom Sellar
By R. C. Baker
By Tom Sellar
Well before the 40-minute work starts, Loulaki, Caroline Hall, Pedro Osorio, Rebecca Serrell, and Jason Akira Somma lie heaped on a white floor against a white paper background. Occasionally someone rises, drags a colleague to a new position, and collapses again. When Georgios Kontos's sound score (sampling various musicians) rouses the performers, and Chloë Z Brown blasts them with white-hot light, the waywardness of their bodies contrasts with the understated formality of Loulaki's structure. They may go wild (all the dancers are listed as collaborating on the choreography), but as they crawl, roll, slide, and stick their butts in the air like a pack of deranged dogs, they also slip into unison or canon; they reprise phrases. Somma illustrates a mini-lecture about the breaking point of any object by repeatedly charging the white paper backdrop and striking it in a particular place. Immediately, squiggly black lines begin to race down and across it. What starts out looking like a map in progress becomes a scrawl; then the lines thicken and completely black out the patterns. Somma's brilliant video installation also includes more peaceful black-and-white images of gulls and waves, but the traveling lines reinforce the dancers' passionately scribbling limbs.
Here are some occurrences. Osorio sniffs Serrell as she lies on the floor. Once she's up, he repeatedly waggles his pelvis against her and butts her to the floor. She runs off as if to vomit; he crawls after her. Somma lies inert while Loulaki, speaking rapidly in Greek, makes his hand caress her face. Hall performs alone as if she were holding onto sanity by remembering the steps. As Serrell sings in a childishly strident, out-of-tune voice with increasing desperation, her gestures illustrating the words become less and less coherent. In two simultaneous duets, men are held recklessly aloft as often as women, and at the end Somma walks up the aisle with Hall straddling his shoulder, as if to remind us that we're all in whatever-this-is together. And whether we understand what drives Loulaki or not, it's gripping to take a ride with her.
Art, meet Myrna. Sorry, that's only her video image facing you; Myrna's over there dancing with another guy. Oops, no, that's you. Well, not really you, just your media clone. You two should get together.
Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer make work about who they are: a husband and wife who've been collaborating for 27 years. Recently, with the creative contributions of video experts Jim Monroe and Peter Bobrow, they've begun to investigate the many selves of a couple in playful, visually delightful, sometimes moving ways. Their new Under the Skin is the second part of a projected trilogy; the first, Seductive Reasoning, premiered at Joyce Soho in 2003 and last week opened the pair's 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Project season, with composer Robert Een accompanying his superb taped score with cello and vocals.
Reasoning explored their fantasies about each other and themselves in wonderfully magical ways. Skin is more intently focused. With the assistance of life-size video doubles, the two indeed get into each other's skins, as long-married lovers are wont to do. A suspended curtain of six panels allows the live dancers to disappear momentarily and reappear (often in different clothes) as easily as their projected images do through the openings of a projected curtain. (The minute spatial calculations involved must be hair-raising.)
While Ken Field accompanies his score by playing his sax from the balcony, Bridgman and Packer merge and separate in witty ways. Words (gibberish, I think) sometimes fill the backdrop or pour down like rain over the performers. Once, Bridgman balances a pint-size Packer image on his hand; it turns into a pale pink cutout and floats up. White hoopskirts worn by either one or both become screens. His face appears under her skirt. His image's hands dress her in his clothes. She sits and watches while he acquires "her" legs. As they wait, wearing the hoopskirts, their bare backs to us, virtual black evening gowns suddenly clothe them. At times, the transformations get almost too complex: Bridgman, his back to us, dons a shirt and pants while his clone, projected on his back and facing us, does the same thing.
The message is clear: Bridgman and Packer mean to show us, with immense precision, the blurring of one person into another in the day-to-day activities of an affectionately shared life. They also dance, their embraces and ballroom moves becoming additional metaphors for merging and separating with fluid ease. In the end, seeking each other through the cracks in the curtain, they acquire not just doubles but a horde of Arts and Myrnas looping dizzily into and out of sight. Do we always know which other self we're trying to hold on to?