"She was a visitor," intones a voice over and over in choreographer Sharon Wyrrick's dance "Visitor."
That phrase aptly describes how this writer, and most likely the other spectators at the Washington Project for the Arts, felt throughout last night's concert by Wyrrick and her 10-member company, Full Circle.
The dark space had most decidedly and innovatively been taken over by these artists, and one not only observes them passively, but, like guests on a guided tour, actively followed their instructions.
Initially, three television sets and a folding chair confronted viewers and set the scene for "Visitor." Last night's version featured a trio of video images and one live performer, Brooke Higden. As series of individuals walked back and forth on one screen or another, Higden sat gesturing on the chair. A thin, intense man with eyes like shiny marbles, he pointed, thrust his head back with his hands besides his ears, pondered with chin in hand, and hiked his thumbs over his left shoulder.
At times, Higden's actions meshed with those of the videodancers, and one watched a sucession of live and recorded frozen stares, swiveling torsos, fractured movements, and listened to the aforementioned phrase--"she was a visitor"--occasionally combined with a mix of conflicting personal narratives. The mood was somber and subtly threatening, but the eyes never knew quite where to focus.
The threatening atmosphere intensified with the premiere of "Backset." Wyrrick instructed the audience to leave its seats and stand between two strips of red tape; the chairs were removed. As the lights went up, it became clear that the dancers would be moving on both sides of the spectators. One group moved forward and back between long white panels, onto which were projected colorful paintings of men and women seated, arising and standing. The other dancers engaged in a series of curving, weaving patterns.
The score, a melange of bells, zither, piano, percussion and clapping, gradually assumed a brash, militaristic tone. Similarly, the dancers grew more aggressive, lengthening their paths, encroaching on the audience's already limited space. "Back up!" someone called, and most of the spectators complied.
After intermission, the audience sat down in a different area and the evening concluded with Wyrrick's three-part "Currents," a work that journeys from darkness to light, rings with rhythm and glows with visual texture and design.
The program will be repeated tonight and tomorrow at 8.