Seeing Ghosts With Jody Sperling/Time Lapse Dance
Jody Sperling has been studying Loie Fuller for some timere-imagining the solos of this fin-de-siècle American dancer and devising new works inspired by them and the vaudeville milieu that spawned them. Fuller transformed herself, via immensely long silk gowns and innovative lighting, into images drawn from nature. Her flowers and butterflies and such drove the Symbolist poets and Art Nouveau artists of Paris mad with pleasure. Sperling has mastered Fullers art of manipulating fabric via long concealed wands, and, even in this hi-tech era, its wonderful to see her create swirling, evolving forms that might have been captured by a time-lapse camera. In her new Ghosts, David Ferris changeable lighting magnifies shadows cast by Emily Lutin, Andrea Skurr, and Sperling (a stock Fuller effect), while Roger Hannas projections cast microscopic forms onto their constantly moving costumes. In one brief appearance, Sperling is visible only by the flashing LED lights on her bodysuit, and Quentin Chiappettas gamelan-inspired score at times induces quicker movements than did the piano pieces Fuller favored.
In Sperlings seven-scene take on Fullers 1908 Ballet of Light,Hannas curious projections aim to convey firelight, stars, an aurora borealis, and other phenomena honor Fullers magic lantern tricks. The prologue charmingly groups young women in white tunics into aesthetic tableaux of the sort seen in 19th-century salon performances, but despite some lovely moments, most of these seven Muses (students in the Barnard College Dance Department) walk matter-of-factly (if genteelly), rather than skimming and floating through the simple patterns designed to mobilize their white scarves.
I enjoy Sperlings wacky, ironic updates on vaudeville acts. In her new Bang for the Buck, to Chiappettas clangorously rowdy score, much goes wrong or perplexes the participants. Skurr walks on her hands, Sperling twirls more hoops with each entrance, Lutin gets yanked offstage by a white length of cloth shes hauling herself along on. Chriselle Tidrick, on stilts, performs a patronizing trio with the much, much shorter Lutin and Skurr. Skits dribble away without climax (or pretend a climax when none exists). Life on the Orpheum Circuit from hell.
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