By Karen Campbell, Globe Correspondent | April 24, 2006
CAMBRIDGE -- Dance and technology are often uneasy bedfellows. One form can distract from the other or have that pasted-on quality, and pieces can get mired in gimmickry. Myrna Packer and Art Bridgman have brilliantly transcended those issues in ''Under the Skin," presented as part of ''Ideas in Motion 2006," Boston Cyberarts' showcase of dance and technology. The most thrilling dance work this reviewer has seen in recent memory, ''Under the Skin" fluidly blends the real and virtual worlds into an eye-popping experience that is imaginative and clever yet very funny and occasionally quite touching.
The two dancers perform in front of a curtain screen that allows them to emerge and disappear through hidden openings. Video by the dancers, in collaboration with Jim Monroe and Peter Bobrow, plays over their bodies, creating a range of effects. Initially, letters and symbols scroll with dizzying speed over a duet of partnered lifts and high-energy swing turns, like a commentary on information overload. Gradually images of their own bodies begin to people the film, converging, then flying away. As the performers slowly embrace or exchange weight, green screen technology allows imagery to be cast only on their bodies or the hoop skirts they don. At one miraculous moment, the dancers seem to merge into one.
By the end, a whole cast of virtual alter egos has emerged for a jazzy romp with the dancers that is flat-out exhilarating. Cambridge composer/saxophonist Ken Field's dynamite jazz/funk score pops with an infectious groove as he plays live with a prerecorded tape in a way that echoes the dancers' fusion of the real and virtual.
Peter Kirn's poetic ''Anatomia: A Work in Progress" placed dancer Elise Knudsen halfway into the light of a live infrared video feed projected onto the back wall. As she moved in and out of the white light with lovely reaches of curved and angled arms, her silhouette was cast and her body heat generated subtle splotches on the projection, creating several layers of abstracted shapes. More compelling was her movement into the space accompanied by a two-part projection. Off to the side is a rain-like watery pattern, while in the center, the stylized negative image of a tree slowly grows, blooms, then sheds its leaves. Magically, the sound of rain on the theater roof insinuated itself into Kirn's delicate prepared piano score.
Swiss-born choreographer/visual artist Andrea Haenggi has solid credentials in the dance/technology realm. However, her entry was the evening's most routine. An experimental slice of a work in progress called ''correre I+II," the piece tried to create a kind of in-between world by placing a small surveillance camera in the hallway of the theater. Dancer Tori Sparks danced in and out of the theater, her movement in the hallway projected on the theater's back wall.
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