Dallas — Bridgman/Packer Dance blurred the lines between the real and the imaginary, between tension and surrender, between movement and space. Friday night at Dallas City Performance Hall, presented by TITAS, Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer showed just how the horizon has broadened between dance, film, video and photography.
Under the Skin combines film and video with magical sleight of hand, with the overall effect clever rather than compelling.
The opening, however, was indeed stunning. Hundreds of words projected on a black background slid upwards, disappeared and reformed. Words seemed to float. Visible in starts and stops, Ms. Packer flits in and out of the video, her image a flat wash, while on the ground she dances in real life. Mr. Bridgman emerges, with his image also thrown by the projector as he moves, cat-like, on the ground.
And then it becomes strange indeed. Both dancers wear floor-length hoopskirts, grabbing the skirts in the middle or flipping them overhead. The effect is to cut the body in two, displaying Mr. Bridgman’s undies and legs while the top half reveals Ms. Packer’s face. They constantly morph into different versions of each other and at different angles, sometimes upside down. It gets even stranger—and more comic—when the video casts multiple images all at once. Ken Field’s jazzy music establishes just the right tone of disconnect.
Under the Skin (2005) was an early foray into mixed media. Just how far the couple has expanded its reach showed in Voyeur (2012), a work of breathtaking brilliance.
Using the paintings of the American artist Edward Hopper as a point of departure, Voyeur captures an essential element of Hopper’s work: the sense of isolation and loneliness. With panels, doors and windows hung at various angles, close up and far away, the viewers’ vantage point is to look past a window into the interior, and there to witness a very private moment.
The figures vanish like ghosts, stepping out onto the pavement, leaning against a wall, disappearing in a bedroom or draping a red dress over the sill. Sometimes the couple disappears behind a window and all we can see is a sliver of their movement, so private, so personal. Their relationship swings from tense to tender, even to violent.
Most of the vantage points are of buildings, outside and in, but toward the end there is one magnificent scene of blue sky and shimmering lake, a lone sailboat serenely gliding in the background, seen from the vantage point of a bedroom.
The scenes change from dawn to dusk in no particular order, but natural light makes it clear what time of day it is.
The sound of seagulls, a jazz rift, a swoosh of air or the rumble of a train help define time and space. There are so many layers to this work, so many fragments of emotion, of setting, light, sound and movement that one is left spellbound with the feeling of having walked into a dream.
» Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill, Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine.