Ordway Blog: Stay connected here with what is happening at Ordway and take a look at what is going on behind the scenes.
Fri, Sep 24, 2010 10:26 AM by Danielle Schumann
Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer began collaborating in 1978 and have since gone on to become the critically acclaimed dance pair and the first joint recipients of a Guggenheim Fellowship (2008). The Bridgman/Packer dance duo bring their works, Double Expose and Under the Skin to the Ordway stage for a one-night-only engagement on October 12 at 7:30 p.m. Learn more about Bridgman/Packer Dance, their “video partnering” technique and what they hope to bring to Ordway audiences.
What brought you two to collaborating with each other back in 1978?
We were dancing in a few dance companies together in NYC, and we both had a strong interest in partnering, exploring movement, and investigating choreographic intent. Looking back at our early pieces, they clearly had seeds of our current work -- the push and pull element of the physical partnering as a metaphor for the push and pull in a relationship, and the questioning of gender roles in a way that balanced tension and humor.
What do you enjoy the most about working together?
There’s the physicality of the dancing and partnering, which feels as if we are one organism on stage, both sensual and exhilarating. Then there is the intellectual challenge of conceiving of a work and seeing it through the unpredictable creative process. We challenge each other to break new ground as performers and artists.
The movement is choreographed through much improvisation in the rehearsal studio and during video shoots. It can be generated from a broad range of physicality, sourced from theatrical character development, or driven by rhythmic impulses in the music. During the past 10 years our work with video has evolved, the performance feels larger; we are performing with each other and sometimes with a dozen images of ourselves.
What makes your work stand out from other dance performances?
We have developed our concept of “video partnering,” where we interact with our life-size video images and use our bodies and costumes as projection screens. We are finding a new form: the alchemy of live and virtual. Image and reality collide and merge. There is an inherent humor in facing one’s own and each other’s image, while at the same time the work is looking at the larger issues of perception and identity, asking the question, “What is real and what is image?” And, through the input of our collaborator, the fabulous filmmaker Peter Bobrow, the cinematic element in the work is visually stunning.
How did the idea for using “video partnering” in your works come about?
In our rehearsal studio late one night, Art recorded himself on video, projected the image, and began stepping into and out from it. Suddenly, the portrayal of the many sides of self and the process of confronting oneself were visually tangible to us. We saw how this use of video could be fully integrated into the live performance.
We became interested in portraying simultaneous levels of reality: live performance, life-size pre-recorded video of performers, and the live filming of performers. The projections imply various points of view and multiple layers of consciousness and experience, and allow us to fragment, transform, and multiply on stage.
What are examples of how you use “video partnering” in your work?
In Under The Skin, Packer’s video image steps onto Bridgman’s hand and he lifts her image up into the air. The real Bridgman lifts the real Packer and then her video image appears to emerge from her and fly up. These are examples of how the use of video extends the physicality of the real partnering. In other sections, our bodies become screens; we use live-camera projections to switch and merge our identities, with Packer’s hips and legs appearing on Bridgman’s lower body and vice versa. These superimpositions suggest interchangeable aspects of personality and gender.
In Double Expose, we are further developing the concept of the multiple layers of identity by embodying different personae, each inspired by classic American cinema. All of the different personae (live and video) move, multiply, and interact with each other. In some sections, the live performers are on opposite sides of the stage, simultaneously being filmed, with their projections appearing next to each other in a third location on stage. This juxtaposition can resonate in many different ways, including as a metaphor for the illusionary aspect of relationship.
What are some of the challenges that can come from working with “video partnering”?
With the use of video technology, our rehearsal process and the creation of our work are now enormously time-consuming and involve very different techniques and methods. We are choreographing what we do on video and what we do on stage, creating scenes that are a total melding of live and virtual. The process involves an intense collaboration with filmmaker Peter Bobrow to integrate the pre-recorded video and the live onstage camera imagery.
There are four different types of video technology used in this production:
At the same time that we were creating the movement, developing the concept, and shooting and editing the video, an original musical score was being created by composer Ken Field. Our creative challenge was to keep all of these balls in the air at once, so that the piece would be created with its elements integrated.
As performers, the challenge is to be highly precise in our timing and locations on stage so that our live movement integrates with the projections.
You’ve started using the phrase “technological cubism” to explain your work. What is “technological cubism,” and how is it used in your works?
We are interested in simultaneously portraying different perspectives. When two perspectives overlap through the use of video, we call it “technological cubism.” In a contemporary twist to the technique of Cubist painters who, for example, simultaneously showed front and side, we at times project the back of the performers onto their fronts. As a result, the audience is seeing the performers’ front and back at the same time. We are literally showing more than one viewing angle while presenting the larger issue of the existence of concurrent interpretations.
What do you hope audiences will get out of your performances?
Each audience member brings his/her own experience to the performance, so we don’t expect the same reaction from everyone. Many people tell us that a universal chord is struck by seeing one’s clone and the many sides of oneself simultaneously portrayed. There are also highly visual, expansive cinematic scenes where multiple images of the performers magically move and merge with the live performers. And, while the perception of audience members is challenged as to what is real and what is image, the work is also a deeper comment on the multiple layers of consciousness and experience.
Then there is the purely physical movement and the partnering as well as the original commissioned musical scores, richly textured and rhythmically complex, by composer/saxophonist Ken Field. Ken layers his live performance with recorded tracks of his music, mirroring the live and virtual compositional structure of the dance.
In addition to your full stage performances, you conduct workshops and classes. Do you find education to be an important component of your work, and if so why?
Yes! It’s always inspiring to pass on what we are discovering in our work. We often teach Partnering Workshops for many different levels. In the period of a two hour workshop, we see students gain the release and ease as well as the strength of partnering, and develop exhilarating and risk-taking partnering. It can be both liberating and empowering.
We’ve also been developing workshops on Live Performance and Video Technology. We set up a “playground” of cameras and projectors so that the students can improvise and explore the relationship of themselves to their projected images. It is similar to our own choreographic process, a way to mine for new creative ideas. We find that it is inspiring for us as well as for the participants.
Written by: Kristie Gaalswyk
Fri, Jan 29, 2010 2:17 PM by Ryan Jones
Join the Ordway as we welcome dance company Bridgman/Packer Dance to our McKnight Theatre during the first week of February. They will be developing a new work, Double Expose, which they will return to perform during Ordway’s 2010-2011 season as a part of our Target® World Music and Dance Series!
Partnering Dance Master Class
Monday, February 1
7pm – 8:30pm
Roy Wilkins Studio #1
Downtown St. Paul (entrance on 5th Street, between the Excel Energy Center and Ordway Stage Door)Attendance is $10; please contact Amy Miller with questions and to RSVP at (651)282-3017 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The popular Partnering Workshop transmits Bridgman/Packer’s unique approach to partnering for beginner through advanced performers. The class is non-gender specific, emphasizes the release and ease as well as the strength of partnering, and builds to develop exhilarating and risk-taking partnering in duet, trio, and group forms.
Lecture and Demonstration
Friday, February 5
7 – 8:30pm
McKnight Theatre, Ordway
Short reception to follow in the McKnight Lobby
Attendance is free; please contact Amy Miller with questions at (651)282-3017 or email@example.com
Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer will share excerpts from their work and examine the relationship of video and live performance from a choreographic point of view. They will explain their creative process through their perspective as dancers, using technology to enhance their work and dance to explore identity, relationships, and personality.
"an astonishing dance/video experience, merging the real and unreal into the surreal." Janet Anderson, Philadelphia City Paper
"a jaw-dropping marvel of sound, film, movement and light… What Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer accomplish through multi-media dance is dynamic, stunning, provocative and occasionally startling… each piece teetering between moment and memory, body and illusion." Anchorage Daily News
For more information about Bridgman/Packer Dance, please visit their website at:
This blog is a group effort by Ordway staff, actors, artists, musicians, dancers and all those involved in the creative process of performances, programs and events at the Ordway to provide a behind the scenes look at what happens onstage, backstage and in support of the work presented at the Ordway. We also hope to discuss pertinent topics in our industry.
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