Multiple Sightings of Dance Live and Onscreen
Neil Greenberg has said he is constantly exploring meaning in dance and in lifenot Romeo-loves-Juliet-and-they-die meaning but how we interpret what we see. The pieces he's made since the early '90s tweak our perceptions and invite us to consider how we process them. The "extravagant, potent, mysterious dancing" he says he's committed to making has often been accompanied by projected words. In his 1999 This is What Happened, convex mirrors and suspenseful movie music further complicated the pictured words. In his new Partial View, as in Two (2003), live-feed video cameras intermittently project alternative views of what's on stage.
The enigmas are compounded by Zeena Parkinson's wonderfully apt, silence-studded score (heard on tape) for acoustic and electric harp, wasp synthesizer, voice, wooden flute, and percussion; Michael Stiller's lighting effects; and video projections by John Jesurun that alternate with the live feed. Jesurun's black-and-white images also invite speculation: trees whitened as if by infrared light; reflections on the water of a mosaic-tile pool; a swimmer; fiery clouds or smoke; objects flying through the air (not a tornado, it turns out, but Baghdad exploding).
A separate piece, partial view solo, seems to contain the seeds of much of the movement in Partial View. Greenberg is not just a dancer doing his stuff; he's a man thinking and feeling things through changes in the movement's scale, rhythms, and dynamics; through focus; and through the alternation of motion and stillness. Sometimes his nearly motionless body seems to get light, to float. He gazes upward. Sometimes he's weightytaking off in big spraddle-legged steps, one leg and then the other reaching high and wide into space. Motion can be reduced to the rapid wiggling of his hips or the twisting of a wrist, or expanded into a gallop around the stage.
Partial View is performed by Justine Lynch, Paige Martin, Luke Miller, and Colin Stilwellall adepts at tackling the sometimes extravagant or discordant sequences. We watch Miller's long limbs twisting against one another as he wrenches them into a path through space, his head angled to look up and back; it's enough to set our minds jangling. The dancers come and go following their own pursuits, moving in perfect unison, or executing the same movements in individual ways. They drip sweat, breathe heavily, never stint.
They also, from time to time, move and re-angle the small video camerastwo on tripods, one on the floor, one overhead. On a split screen at the back, we may see Martin's circling hand in closeup while Miller dances small in the background. The perspectives become deliciously complex, foregrounding this movement, dwindling that one, creating tensions that we don't notice between the live performers. On the other hand, movement that seems dramatic when seen live cools down on screen. When the cameras are downstage, we see projected images within the projected images, tripling the view. Jesurun's pre-recorded video images suggest an environment far less rational that the one the dancing occupies, but we can, if we wish, link the storms created by the choreography of living bodies to the aestheticized and abstracted violence of the tapes. Greenberg is presenting us with a whole creation about partial views, while reminding us that we never have more than partial views of our lives.
Get the Theater Newsletter
Get a rundown of upcoming theater events and ticket deals in New York.