Editors' pick

Margaret Jenkins Dance Co: Light Moves


Editorial Review

Capturing light by collaboration
By Lisa Traiger
Friday, Feb. 3, 2012

For centuries, artists have been trying to capture light in its many incarnations - the deep purple glow of the night sky just before dawn, the dappled summery sunshine through leafy trees, the grandeur of a fiery orange sunset. But it's a little like holding water or halting the incessant push of time.

That hasn't stopped San Francisco dancemaker Margaret Jenkins from forging ahead with her newest - and light-saturated - work, "Light Moves," which has its East Coast premiere this weekend at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. The evening-length piece is a rich collaboration with California-based painter and video artist Naomie Kremer, composer Paul Dresher (whose score will be performed by his ensemble), poet Michael Palmer and Jenkins's eight dancers.

"We launched the piece," Jenkins says, "by talking about the different hours of the day and the metaphoric and the actual associations we had with those hours. Obviously midnight conjures up all kinds of things for people . . . while sunrise, sunset, the middle of the day. . . convey different kinds of emotional and structural responses."

The results of their discussions about how light waxes and wanes over the course of a day became central to the work - both its physical structure and its emotive arcs.

Kremer, whose video work here creates a moving backdrop for "Light Moves," animates her oil paintings by overlaying the canvases with video images from a variety of sources, including one moment that captured a flock of pigeons. Using video editing tools, she manipulated that shot into an abstract image, altering the pigeons beyond recognition.

The projections, Kremer says, "provide effects in the course of a day and [demonstrate] how light can very much affect our mood," which is something Jenkins also considered in consulting with Palmer, whose poems are heard and seen during the piece.

Kremer, who never worked with dancers before, calls her paintings with projected video "hybrid paintings," a theme echoed in "Light Moves."

"I was really encouraged and stimulated by Margy's idea of treating this as a hybrid work of dance and video. . . . She took an enormous leap into the unknown to allow that hybridity."

And audiences in turn can discover multiple entry paths.

"Viewers have the possibility of responding to different elements at different moments in the performance," Kremer says. "Rather than giving the viewer a hierarchy and telling them what to look at when, here we've created multiple simultaneous experiences, which is, I think, very interesting."