IMPRESSIONS: Bridgman/Packer Dance

IMPRESSIONS: Bridgman/Packer Dance

Published on April 22, 2010

Baryshnikov Arts Center March 28, 2010

© Cory Nakasue 2010

A Bag Full of Tricks and Some Flashes of Brilliance

Bridgman/Packer Dance has been making dances that use video for over 30 years, and it is evident in the sheer technical precision of their performances. Unfortunately, one also gets a sense of their 30 years by their content’s cultural references and the stylistic choices of their choreography and design concepts.

Bridgman/Packer Dance 2009 - Double Expose - Photo by: Shannon C. MacDowell

The couple presented an older work, Under the Skin (2005), and a world premiere, Double Expose. Under the Skin is a technical tour de force of their ingenuity using layered projections on scrims, curtains and each other’s bodies mixed with live feed. The dynamic duo artfully create beguiling vignettes in which they multiply the number dancers on stage, change costume (and gender), and show the inner workings of the body (their skeletons), all with the use of the projected image. There is a particularly stunning section that is reminiscent of changing the clothes on paper dolls. Gender specific clothes and underwear are projected on the two performers and they mime the discarding and donning of different items of clothing. This is performed to perfection with keen senses of timing and humor. This piece, more a video art installation with performers rather than dance, could easily be their signature work. They even included older footage of themselves dancing together which created a sense of completeness in the work

Double Expose-Bridgman/Packer Dance-Photo by: Bridgman/Packer Dance

The world premiere of Double Expose was a take on detective stories of the 1950s, very similar in tone to “The Girl Hunt Ballet” in the movie The Band Wagon. Projection in this piece is primarily used as a set. We see our hard-boiled Mickey Spillane character played by Bridgman tailing a mystery woman played by Packer through the projected streets of New York City. There is a murder, some mistaken identity, and a plot twist, but what’s missing is the integrity of the work. The detective story is merely a conceit for them to work their movie magic. Double Expose was not without its deeper moments however—moments when they allowed themselves to stray from the formulaic mystery story. A section of this piece, using live feed projected on to large, square, stand-ins for beds, showed the characters, along with a supporting cast (projected images of Bridgman and Packer in different costumes) tumbling across the “beds” revealing waves of intimacy, fear, longing, and anger using choreography that seemed natural as the tides. The subtleties and rhythms of bodies as they rolled and collided and spooned with one another was sincere and moving, throwing it in sharp relief with a lot of the more manufactured emotions of the evening.

The technical skill and innovative spirit of these two is of a high standard without question and there were definitely some flashes of vulnerability that flickered through the presentational thrust of the evening. If they could manage to ground their technical prowess in a more nuanced exploration of story telling, we’d have some real movie magic.

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