For years choreographers have been tacking video onto their stage works and calling it multimedia. But few artists have fully integrated video and live dance, perhaps because video is a cool and innocuous medium, requiring only halfhearted consideration, while live dance is hot and demands attention -- to the bodies and muscles and sinews, to the sweat and breath.
With their latest work, "Under the Skin," husband-and-wife duo Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer have achieved the promise of mixed media, fully integrating video and live action, as they also did in their 2003 piece "Seductive Reasoning."
"Under the Skin" is a new work co-commissioned by Dance Place to open its 25th adventurous season of dance performances of every stripe. It's been a decade since New Yorkers Bridgman and Packer were last in Washington. They're still a friendly, unassuming pair, their dance vocabulary an easy and conversational amalgamation of loose-limbed releases and distinctively accurate shapes.
In "Seductive Reasoning" Packer's slow, studious solo is reproduced live and life-size on the wall alongside her dancing body by the camerawork of her partner. The projection is manipulated and multiplied until the dancer morphs into a kaleidoscopic abstraction -- a live and virtual body sharing the space. Joined by Bridgman, their filmed images multiply until the two swiftly and seamlessly change partners, dancing with their embodied selves as readily as they partner their ever-swirling projected bodies.
"Under the Skin" develops these live-or-video techniques further, and soon the dancers -- wearing hoop skirts -- become screens on which their own moving bodies are projected. Composer and jazz saxophonist Ken Field mirrors the live-vs.-recorded concept as he accompanies his own prerecorded instrument in a spry and easygoing score that bleats and riffs in sensual tandem with the dancers. Editor Jim Monroe and filmmaker Peter Bobrow collaborated with Bridgman and Packer.
Technical wonders aside, the fascination of these works resides in ideas of the real and the virtual body serving as doppelgangers -- the dynamic interplay of identities and what it means to be comfortable in one's skin as each dancer "wears" the other's projection on his or her bare back.
-- Lisa Traiger