Bridgman/Packer: A Company of Three by Jennifer Tarrazi-Scully


How do two dancers look like an entire company and one musician sound like a whole band, you ask? How does a figure appear live on stage with a male torso and female legs or two sets of legs coming from the same belly button? How can a movie, set in an industrial city, have the characters jump in and out of the screen? These are things Atlanta got to experience at the Ferst Theater this weekend (Feb. 25th, 2012) in the Bridgman/Packer Concert.

Myrna Packer and Art Bridgman have been collaborating together since 1978 and have found their artistic path in the integration of technology and movement. Literally, they are taking dance to a new level and have created another dimension on stage. I have seen video used in dance work before, but never like this. The images aren’t just pretty pictures used as background, taking up space or creating a mood. They are the environment in which the performers exist. The pool of projections is the landscape the performers interact with and the repeated images of the dancers make up an entire company. The illusion is so great that much of the time the audience can’t discern which bodies, or body parts, are physically on stage.

The idea of one being many was reflected in the music as well. After meeting Bridgman/Packer, Ken Field realized what they were doing with movement, he was doing with music. Field, a saxophonist, is the lone musician off stage right. His presence is a constant throughout the show, but through the looping and layering of sound, one would have thought there was an entire band behind the wing.

Three people! That’s it. Remarkable!

The first piece Under the Skin (2005), is a really well thought out clear concept. As well as a standard screen, the dancers are also used as a platform to project image upon. They are the moving screen. Through cinematic magic, their bodies get replaced by images allowing them to do things that aren’t physically possible. Like fly off into the rafters. They start off as part of the background but as the piece progresses they become the screen. In my favorite section of the whole night, both dancers, male and female, wear white tank tops and large crinolines. These skirts give extra surface area to project upon. Through a live video feed he becomes her, she becomes him. When the skirt gets pulled over the head, one torso is projected on the other dancer, giving the illusion of two Myrnas or two Arts. Images of duets are shown upon their naked backs. The possibilities are endless and I think they explored the element to the fullest. I have to say, a pure delight to watch.
Not only was this other dimension created on stage but we were also sucked into a time warp. I was shocked when intermission arrived, thinking I had only been sitting for 10 min. When, in fact, ¾ of an hour had passed. You know what they say about time and having fun…

The second half of the show was just as innovative and surprising as the first. Double Exposure (2010), took us into a more conventional movie setting. An actual scene of city streets unfolds on the screen, the characters, live and projected, transition seamlessly in and out of the cityscape. The amusing thing is, we see exactly how they do it, but this knowledge doesn’t take away from the magic of it all.
They have been at it for over 30 years. They have perfected it. I can’t wait to see how Bridgman/Packer will evolve into the future.

Thank you again Ferst Theater. You make an old modern dancer happy. I am never disappointed by the artists you bring to Atlanta.

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