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Bridgman|Packer Dance

Bridgman|Packer have no fear of plying their artistry in the midst of imaginative multimedia environments.

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A scene from “Remembering What Never Happened” performed by Bridgman|Packer Dance

A scene from “Remembering What Never Happened” performed by Bridgman|Packer Dance (Courtesy of Bridgman|Packer Dance) 

Joel Benjamin

Joel Benjamin, Critic

Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer, two finely tuned, mature dancers, have no fear of plying their talents in the midst of imaginative multimedia environments, despite the possibility of being overwhelmed.  These projected images are not mere gimmickry.  They serve to intensify and illuminate the emotional resonance of their distinctive art.  In two new works the pair deftly explored states of quiet angst and sexual attraction.

“Remembering What Never Happened,” performed to multiple musical sources including Ravel, had choreography and videos created by Bridgman and Packer.

Two folding chairs made up the deceptively simple set.  The back wall became an ever-changing tableau, returning frequently to a representation of a stark vertical wall of stone in front of which the filmed dancers clung, walked and slowly moved.

Often filmed chorus lines made up manifold versions of each dancer either mirrored their movements or seemed to mock them, only to disappear, leaving ghostly wispy white outlines that dissipated slowly.  The two dancers mostly folded themselves about the two chairs, danced with the videos and leaving the stage only to change into a succession of drab, everyday looking costumes.

At times, images of the dancers were projected onto their own bodies as if their thoughts were made manifest.  When they did get together, the going was slow and dispassionate, punctuated by soft, twisty jumps.  Utilizing these simple means—clear movements, brilliant videos and quietly intense music—they managed to paint a complex portrait of a relationship that was the culmination of a richly shared past.

“Voyeur,” a far more technically complex work, took as its jumping off point the paintings of Edward Hopper.  The incredibly sharp, breathtakingly beautiful videos were created by Peter Bobrow who also contributed to the “sound design” of vaguely heard music by Robert Een and Cab Calloway.

A scene from “Voyeur" performed by performed by Bridgman|Packer Dance (Photo credit: Tyler Silver)

A scene from “Voyeur” performed by performed by Bridgman|Packer Dance (Photo credit: Tyler Silver)

Along with the choreographers, Mr. Bobrow created the marvelous folding white wall filled with window and door-like opening upon which videos were screened.  Adding to the complexity were videos simultaneously shown on the back wall of the stage, visible through the openings, making for a particularly complex, varied and vital performance space.

At times, Hopper’s paintings—mostly the moody ones—were inhabited by the dancers who took on the iconic, emotionally laden poses so brilliantly painted by Hopper, helped by Frank DenDanto III’s fine lighting.  Outdoor scenes, images of isolated houses and rows of urban buildings added to the complexity. Endlessly long corridors, down which the dancers wandered, appeared as the soundtrack (by Scott Lehrer and Leon Rothenberg) alluded to city sounds, distant trains, conversations and nature.  The two dancers were never eclipsed by the set and projections, their emotional states always in flux and always crystal clear.  The effect was often breathtakingly and movingly beautiful.

Preceding “Voyeur,” the audience was invited to tour the video/set installation.  A good idea, perhaps, but this took more than twenty minutes.  Certainly, the pleasure of touring the set and seeing their own images cast upon the white wall must have been intriguing to each of those wandering about, but dealing with the audience members’ curiosity stopped the show cold and didn’t add anything to the show.

Bridgman|Packer’s performances were deceptively calm with great depths of emotion implied, helped by the brilliant video designs and simple choreography.  Ms. Packer, in particular, is a sensual presence, responding with subtlety and grace to Mr. Bridgman’s larger-than-life charisma.

Bridgman|Packer Dance (July 13, 14, 16, 2016)

Loreto Theater/Sheen Center, 18 Bleecker Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-925-2812 or visit http://www.sheencenter.org

Running time:  100 minutes including one intermission

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Joel Benjamin
About Joel Benjamin (358 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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