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Flash Review 2, 2-12: All in the Family
Grounded in the Duet with Bridgman & Packer

By Gus Solomons jr
Copyright 2003 Gus Solomons jr

NEW YORK -- Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer have been teamed up in life and art since 1978. Over the years they've made their mark in duet concerts of their own dances. Now, at 40-something, the couple dances with patina: smooth physical easiness that occasionally borders on downright offhandedness and has improvisational spontaneity, and they keep us engaged wtih a fair amount of vigorous mutual lifting. Recently, they have been exploring video technology to enhance their presentation without adding personnel.

In their Joyce SoHo concert (February 6-9) the duo made fascinating use of shadows. In "Carried Away," danced to Glen Velez's percussive music, they moved in front and in back of a large red curtain lighted form the rear, playing with scale, growing larger and smaller in relation to each other. Two segments featured unison passages with one dancer visible, one in silhouette. Another section, all in silhouette, left us guessing who was where and which way they were facing, as their shadows grew from normal to giant size.

Davy Bridgman-Packer appeared with mom and dad in "Cups," part chess game, part rhythm study. They plopped plastic tumblers on their dinner table in multiple configurations. Seventh-grader Davy (a first-degree black belt in karate) has performed with his parents for four years, and -- a la European-postmodernism -- he wore socks in performance.

"Point A to Point B (You can't get there from here)" used video -- by Bridgman in collaboration with video arts students from Ramapo College in New Jersey -- of people trying to give complicated directions to nameless locations. A suburban husband and wife argued about the simplest versus the shortest routes; an older woman knew what streets to turn on and which way, but couldn't remember the names of those streets. Some of the subjects were projected onto Bridgman's bare torso, as he writhed slowly in the projector beam. Then, again to Velez music, Packer joined him for a dance episode against a full-screen auto journey through the Jersey countryside: woods, power lines, houses and hills. Here, the video predominated; I have no idea what they danced.

At the opening of the premiere, "Seductive Reasoning," Bridgman videotaped Packer live. As he slowly rotated the camera, five echoes of her image made kaleidoscopic patterns behind her. Then Jim Monroe and Peter Bobrow's video projection that covered the entire rear wall allowed Bridgman and Packer to dance with life-size video images of themselves -- reminiscent of the French troupe Montalvo-Hervieu only more modest. Robert Een added his divinely inspired music for cello and tenor voice to his recorded score, featuring percussionist Hearn Gadbois and guitarist John Guth.

Bridgman did a duet with himself. Both of him carried rectangular frames, but the video version kept changing size: he got bigger, his frames got smaller. Packer let her long, silken Rapunzel tresses (Hairfabric by Genevieve Platt) fall from atop a suspended sheet on which her video self lounged. Both paired up, in the flesh, with the video version of the other in a double duet.

Bridgman and Packer's ideas are smart and entertaining -- up to a point. What keeps their work from soaring is their penchant for launching into a wonderful idea and then exploring it at length without actually developing it. More editorial rigor could transform the work from clever to eloquent. Liz Prince's simple costumes are, as usual, both.

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