Adventurous demos

By MARCIA B. SIEGEL  |  June 5, 2007

Finally, to one section of Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel, a somber litany of violin scales and piano arpeggios, the dancers rose and, in disintegrating unison, showed the phrase sequence they had assembled. They maintained blank faces and gazed straight ahead. The moves were almost mechanical but were always performed with high intensity — body parts folding and wrapping and opening, legs extending and flexing to the max, whole bodies twisting, reaching, dropping to the floor. With both hands they touched the front of their bodies; then their gestures skewed off into asymmetricality.

They began to move through the space, taking their chairs with them. A brassy Broadway band played the lead-in to “Get Happy,” over and over. The band never got to the rest of the song, but the dancers mouthed the words. Then after a loud rumbling sound and a shuddering interlude, they started a series of solos and group variations on the phrase material. The lighting (by Jeff Adelberg) took the room from a moody darkness to a hot white glare, then back to shadowy dusk.

Nic Perry moved with big spastic changes, one big move per note of Satie. He kept looking up, as if some unseen force were commanding him. Megan Schenk thrust her limbs out, twisted herself into disembodied shapes. Her eyes aimed out, but her focus was inward. Emily Beattie flung herself into spirals and huge extensions. Wendee Rogerson seemed to be pulled in opposite directions as she stepped forward gingerly while her upper torso arched and flopped back. Alisha Ear skittered in small semicircles that kept reversing direction, suddenly sinking to the floor and springing up again. Lorraine Chapman solo’d all the way through another section of Spiegel im Spiegel that sounded very much like the first. She seemed to be scanning some inner drama of her whole life.

Gradually the dancers returned the chairs to their original positions and sat down as we’d first seen them. The white sound returned, imposing the same introspective stillness. It was hot in the room. It was frozen. Finally, the ushers opened the doors and people uncertainly began to leave. The dancers didn’t move.

Snappy Dance’s new String Beings showcased some classy technology the program called “intelligent video processing” — which looked a lot like motion capture to me. With a variety of scrims, opaque panels, and lighting tricks, the seven dancers became the source for a dreamy succession of images created by collaborating new-media artist Jonathan Bachrach.

As the dancers and the two musicians encountered one another, their actions and sounds were digitally transformed into wavy inkblots, trace forms, shapes made of sparks, giant fingers, and other constantly morphing designs. Playing a score by Michael Rodach, violinist Lucia Lin and guitarist Michael Bierylo hovered around the edges of the dance, sometimes projected in oversized silhouette, like benign spirits.

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