Adventurous demos

By MARCIA B. SIEGEL  |  June 5, 2007

The live dancers were featured in some of the sections, but their activity didn’t look very evolved from the five short pieces choreographed between 1997 and 2006 that formed the first part of the program. Snappy Dance’s choreography takes the form of vignettes — apparently unrelated in the extended String Beings. Each number relies on a kind of visual displacement; you see what the dancers are doing, but often you’re deceived or seduced into thinking you’re seeing something else. Bodies clamped together into cocoon shapes. Running people suddenly suspended in mid air. A person unaware that another person is attached to his back. Headless bodies or limbs that have no torsos. Alternatively, people start behaving like people only to turn into launchpads for their comrades’ acrobatics. They’ll lock together in a passionate embrace, but then another person will dig her head between them like a burrowing insect.

The limited movement vocabulary with which they work to achieve these effects doesn’t allow any idea to develop. Perhaps Bachrach’s video enhancements were meant to extend the movement implications, but I didn’t see much social interplay between the human and the virtual shapes. Maybe it’s too soon in the collaboration for that — or maybe working out the interface in a theater is more complicated than it looks in a computer. Snappy’s promotional video of the work in progress shows some provocative images I didn’t see on stage: a giant mouth eating a tiny dancer, a stilt walker sitting on someone’s head, two blobs drifting together and apart like X-rays of the two live dancers’ hearts. Maybe there was so much going on that I just missed them.

Throughout the evening I kept being reminded of Alwin Nikolais, who started 60 years ago with little more than flashlights, packing boxes, and some fantastically adaptable dancers, and went on to create tremendous spectacles of illusion. Nikolais was dance’s first and is still its greatest media magician.

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