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Impressions of Jody Sperling's "Bringing The Arctic Home"

Impressions of Jody Sperling's "Bringing The Arctic Home"
Deirdre Towers/Follow @deirdre.towers on Instagram

By Deirdre Towers/Follow @deirdre.towers on Instagram
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Published on July 2, 2015
"Ice Cycle" Photo by Phyliss McCabe

Arctic Memories

Date: June 21, 2015 Venue: JCC Manhattan
Choreographer: Jody Sperling; Company: Time Lapse Dance ;Dancers: Jenny Campbell, Sarah Chien, Maya Orchin, Jody Sperlling, Krissy Tate, Chriselle Tidrick
Music: Brooks Williams, Beo Morales, Quentin Chiappetta, Matthew Burtner; Costumes: Mary Jo Mecca, Gina Nagy Burns, Jessica Dunham, Michelle Ferranti

A woman wrapped in white slowly turns from stage right to left, revealing with each circumference more of a black and white projected image that resembles at first a Japanese painting or calligraphy, but, later, we realize we are looking at ice in varying degrees of opacity. The dancer accelerates her turns as she nears the end of her passage and simultaneously, the projection speeds up. Changes in the Arctic were once “glacial,” barely noticeable, but now, we are all primed to observe the increasing speed of environmental transformations. This metaphor for the opening of Jody Sperling’s new work “Ice Cycle” is chillingly apt.

Ice Cycle Photo by Phyllis Mcabe

Sperling, the foremost interpreter of modern dance pioneer Loie Fuller (1892-1968), had the enviable opportunity to dance on Arctic ice as the guest of oceanographer Robert Pickart (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) on a 43 day polar science mission to the Chukchi Sea on a 420’ icebreaker. While she edits the footage of her solo dance on the ice, she premiered her live group dance inspired by that trip. She created a striking duet with one woman swirling black fabric and the other white, making one muse on underwater flowers, its petals spiraling erotically around each other, and crystals within the ice, as well as dark forces eclipsing light. What would Georgia O’Keefe have painted on that trip?

jody sperling engulfed in a swirling sheath of white and black
Jody Sperling in Artic Memory ; Photo Peter Shin

The score was made by Matthew Burner who is a specialist in the music of snow and ice. Joining Sperling for a talkback after the Sunday, 7pm, show were scientists Margie Turrin and Bruno Tremblay, and visual artist Jessica Houston, whose time lapse video “Quasuitluq” (The Place with No Dawn), 2010, was also shown.

Turblence Photo by  Antonia K Miranda

This program also included Sperling’s “Arctic Memory,” a solo performed dispassionately by Sperling  and “Turbulence,” a group dance for six. The three dances were similar in that Sperling always uses the giant swaths of fabric and colored side lights, the signature innovation of Loie Fuller, and coaches her dancers to partner these swirls calling little attention to their bodies. But the new work, “Ice Cycle” had a meditative pause in which one dancer in a black unitard stands with her back to the audience facing a white cloth stretched across the stage. Sperling shared how she was stunned by the vast expanse of the ice, its rippling textures, the daunting experience of learning to move on it.

Can’t wait to see her short film of this venture!


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