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Flash Review, 1-27: Hold the Line
Troika, Evolutions

By Beliz Demircioglu
Copyright 2006 Beliz Demircioglu
Photo copyright Richard Termine

NEW YORK -- Troika Ranch's new "16 [Revolutions]," seen January 20 at the Eyebeam Art & Technology Center, where it closes tomorrow night, is an immersive journey that travels through a matrix of imagination, reality and time. As Troika Ranch is a digital dance theater company -- directed by choreographer Dawn Stoppiello and composer/media artist Mark Coniglio -- an interactive projection installation led the audience through a hall into the theater. Joel Sherry's stage design was one of the most imaginative I have seen in a while. See-through plastic sheets of different lengths hung from the ceiling at various parts of the stage. Under cold and blue lighting created by Susan Hamburger (with the assistance of David Tirosh), the stage looked like a crystal cave. When lines were projected from the ceiling and behind the audience, they reflected off the plastic sheets, the stage becoming a wide, multi-dimensional space.

Troika Ranch's "16 [Revolutions]." Photo by and copyright Richard Termine, and courtesy Troika Ranch.

Minimal and careful use of color in costumes (designed by Stoppiello) throughout the piece helped to direct the focus to the movement. And the projections created by Coniglio and Stoppiello sometimes generated such rich textures on the bodies of the performers that they enhanced the characteristics of the movement. This was especially effective when the stage was densely dark except for projected black, white and pink lines, which moved from stage right to left. Here the dancers crawled slowly from stage left to right, their bodies fully reflecting the projections. The movement started from the primal, then referenced images and ideas from different eras: ladies with fur jackets, butlers with handkerchiefs in their lapels. Stoppiello used many metaphors to question the evolutions in human interaction over time. A section involving a shoe and a woman was particularly provocative. A dancer bit on a stiletto shoe, perhaps meant to represent femininity or 'class', before raising it aloft, then dropping it. Raising a second shoe, she caught the first just before it landed. The dance was full of playful and surprising moments like this.

The imagery of the projections was tightly connected to the movement and helped to expand the meaning of the work. At various points a simple white line of light would appear on the floor downstage as a performer sat with his back to the audience. The line would lengthen towards upstage, bisecting the middle of the performer's body before extending up the back wall all the way to the ceiling. As the performer commenced dancing, the line would expand and contract horizontally with his movements. Danced as a solo, this duo of light and performer became a metaphor for a "line of thought" or "line of life." As the piece evolved into an ensemble with a few performers interacting simultaneously with the light line, the separation and blending of lines questioned individuality and contact. The only part where the imagery seemed unnecessary was when the white silhouettes of the performers' real-time footage were projected in the background.

The performance evoked a journey through experiences, sometimes in a very realistic form and sometimes in a more "dream-like" or abstracted one, but there was always a thread. Coniglio's score was a unifying force for all the different design aspects of the work. At times he used a surround-sound system precisely with the choreography. Electronic sounds were mixed with environmental samples, such as those of birdsong, wind.... Human sounds -- at one point, we heard someone chewing cornflakes -- added humor. My favorite "sound-byte" involved bells and fireflies producing harmony.

"16 [R]evolutions" is a journey that makes you laugh, think, realize and get confused. It is definitely is not a piece that ends as you exit. It is an experience that shifts in your mind and comes into your attention from time to time for a while.

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