Theater archives

Chunky Move: Tech Trek


I don’t know about you, but when my computer gets freaky, I feel a little the way primitive woman must have felt about lightning strikes: Who or what is doing this to me?

This may be one of the reasons I was buoyed as well as dazzled by Gideon Obarzanek’s Glow. Here’s a piece that involves what’s described as a “sophisticated video tracking system” and “interactive video technologies,” yet uses this up-to-date magic to suggest the dilemma of a human being caught in the glare of digitized headlights, and the tension between the reality we think we understand and the illusions we’ve invented.

Glow features only one dancer—either Kristy Ayre or Sara Black—instead of the crew of Chunky Move performers that brought us this Australian choreographer’s terrific Tense Dave in 2005 and I Want to Dance Better at Parties in 2006. Glow‘s soloist (I saw Ayre) is at the mercy of the overhead data projector that rules Frieder Weiss’s interactive system design and Ayre’s world. We’re sitting on four sides of the white floorcloth on which Ayre spends the short piece—mostly lying down, rolling and thrashing and crawling about her beautiful, terrifying, luminous domain. She’s wearing a shimmery knitted leotard, and her muscular legs look bronzed.

Straight lines streak past her and disappear. Another dark projected line forms around her; this outline stays with her for a while, keeping her within its shifting perimeter. Luke Smiles’s ominous sound design seems both outside this creature and a part of her. Early on, she stands briefly and, with a yell, somersaults out of the arena and back in again. Suddenly the space goes all white, and she lies motionless and supine.

Over the course of the piece, webs form around her and disappear when she stops moving. Other lines abstract her outline to a geometric shape. Suddenly she starts leaving her shadow behind on the floor wherever she goes, and after a few seconds’ delay, the shadows, smudging, creep to her like guilty phantom dogs. No wonder she grunts and cries out. Sometimes she’s allowed to feel in control—able to push framing lines away from herself with her hands and feet. Still, you can understand when she becomes crazed, what with clouds and thunder and those pesky shadows enveloping her. At one spooky point, we can see her and the dark shadow beneath her, although no light appears to be trained on her; she’s a shadow in a shadow. The next minute, she’s swimming in light.

It’s impossible not to see the woman as trapped in an environment beyond her comprehension. In the end, the surrounding light diminishes to a tiny pinpoint, and blackness engulfs us all.