Theater

Multiple Sightings of Dance Live and Onscreen

by

Neil Greenberg has said he is constantly exploring meaning in
dance and in life—not 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 weighty—taking 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 Stilwell—all 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 cameras—two 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.