"breathtakingly and movingly beautiful.”Theaterscene.net, NYC
Bridgman|Packer Dance (July 13, 14, 16, 2016), Loreto Theater/Sheen Center, 18 Bleecker Street, NYC
by Joel Benjamin July 20, 2016
Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer, two finely tuned, mature dancers, have no fear of plying their talents in the midst of imaginative multimedia environments, despite the possibility of being overwhelmed. These projected images are not mere gimmickry. They serve to intensify and illuminate the emotional resonance of their distinctive art. In two new works the pair deftly explored states of quiet angst and sexual attraction.
“Remembering What Never Happened,” performed to multiple musical sources including Ravel, had choreography and videos created by Bridgman and Packer.
Two folding chairs made up the deceptively simple set. The back wall became an ever-changing tableau, returning frequently to a representation of a stark vertical wall of stone in front of which the filmed dancers clung, walked and slowly moved.
Often filmed chorus lines made up manifold versions of each dancer either mirrored their movements or seemed to mock them, only to disappear, leaving ghostly wispy white outlines that dissipated slowly. The two dancers mostly folded themselves about the two chairs, danced with the videos and leaving the stage only to change into a succession of drab, everyday looking costumes.
At times, images of the dancers were projected onto their own bodies as if their thoughts were made manifest. When they did get together, the going was slow and dispassionate, punctuated by soft, twisty jumps. Utilizing these simple means—clear movements, brilliant videos and quietly intense music—they managed to paint a complex portrait of a relationship that was the culmination of a richly shared past.
“Voyeur,” a far more technically complex work, took as its jumping off point the paintings of Edward Hopper. The incredibly sharp, breathtakingly beautiful videos were created by Peter Bobrow who also contributed to the “sound design” of vaguely heard music by Robert Een and Cab Calloway.
A scene from “Voyeur” performed by performed by Bridgman|Packer Dance (Photo credit: Tyler Silver)
Along with the choreographers, Mr. Bobrow created the marvelous folding white wall filled with window and door-like opening upon which videos were screened. Adding to the complexity were videos simultaneously shown on the back wall of the stage, visible through the openings, making for a particularly complex, varied and vital performance space.
At times, Hopper’s paintings—mostly the moody ones—were inhabited by the dancers who took on the iconic, emotionally laden poses so brilliantly painted by Hopper, helped by Frank DenDanto III’s fine lighting. Outdoor scenes, images of isolated houses and rows of urban buildings added to the complexity. Endlessly long corridors, down which the dancers wandered, appeared as the soundtrack (by Scott Lehrer and Leon Rothenberg) alluded to city sounds, distant trains, conversations and nature. The two dancers were never eclipsed by the set and projections, their emotional states always in flux and always crystal clear. The effect was often breathtakingly and movingly beautiful.
Preceding “Voyeur,” the audience was invited to tour the video/set installation. A good idea, perhaps, but this took more than twenty minutes. Certainly, the pleasure of touring the set and seeing their own images cast upon the white wall must have been intriguing to each of those wandering about, but dealing with the audience members’ curiosity stopped the show cold and didn’t add anything to the show.
Bridgman|Packer’s performances were deceptively calm with great depths of emotion implied, helped by the brilliant video designs and simple choreography. Ms. Packer, in particular, is a sensual presence, responding with subtlety and grace to Mr. Bridgman’s larger-than-life charisma.
"Each aesthetic shift, unobtrusively accompanied by different optical illusions and soundscapes … becomes a new question, a new story, and an increasingly more absorbing moment in time…We are compelled to pay attention."Eye On Dance, NYC
ART BRIDGMAN & MYRNA PACKER
July 19, 2016
Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer have been collaborating since 1978, working with video technology and live performance. Their two New York premieres at the Sheen Center, Remembering What Never Happened and Voyeur, brought up so many ideas and questions about representation, time, space, illusion and reality that my head was spinning – in a good way – for most of the evening. Although the use of video and projection in dance has precedent as far back as Massine and Tchelitchev’s Ode (1928 for the Ballets Russes), and put Robert Joffrey’s Astarte on the cover of Time magazine in 1967, its use has not become commonplace in concert dance. After seeing Bridgman and Packer, one wonders… why not? The melding of actual corporeality with flat, moving three-dimensional images that are a window to the world, into one integrated whole, seems to expand both art forms. And what better way to interest today’s screen-saturated generation in a live performance and its possibilities?
Two dancers sitting in chairs on a darkened stage, looking into the wings, are soon bathed in a blue light, while projections of them – whether on the scrim behind them, or on their bodies, dance and move as they do. We become absorbed in the game of discerning precision: is this happening in real time, or are the dancers flawlessly synced with a previously filmed image? At one point, a small time-lapse emerges, with the projected image mimicking the dancer one count after she moves. In another section, he sits in a chair downstage and as he moves, his image is projected in multiples across the screen. At other times, the movements and projections recall Herbert Migdoll’s time-lapse photographic experiments of the 1960s.
Bridgman and Packer’s loose contemporary style recalls some of Trisha Brown’s quality, but the movement itself is not the focus; instead we think about its relationship to the flat image, or to the other dancer, or how the bodies move from one circumscribed illusory space to another. In one particularly eerie passage, she is projected walking around what looks like the side of a rocky cliff, as he watches her from the stage. They simultaneously inhabit two different worlds, and it feels like peeking inside his head, witnessing his memory or imagination or both. Each aesthetic shift, unobtrusively accompanied by different optical illusions and soundscapes – from percussive to bluesy to violins – becomes a new question, a new story, and an increasingly more absorbing moment in time. Walter Benjamin wrote about how film could expand our visual and cognitive space; these artists literally embody this notion. Yet they also turn Benjamin’s “distracted viewer” of film on its head: we are compelled to pay attention.
During intermission the audience is invited to walk around the stage and examine the flat cardboard cutout façade of a house, which will later transform into different homes, street scenes, and even a gorgeous seascape, through projections. Although the program tells us the paintings of Edward Hopper were a point of departure, at different moments I was also reminded of Dali’sGirl at a Window, of 1925, the works of the 19th-century German Romantic painter David Caspar Friedrich, and the grit of Tennessee Williams’ Streetcar Named Desire. Through their choreography, the dancers magnify a strange nostalgia, and a feeling of unease, with repetitive and sometimes violent encounters between them that occur through a window, or between a doorway, or in an alley, sometimes “real,” sometimes projected, but constantly changing time and place.
These dance artists, along with their many collaborators – Philip Gulley for technology design, Frank DenDanto III and Andrew Trent for lighting design and operation, John Guth for sound, and Gil Sperling for technology engineering – have taken the merely optical or corporeal and by fusing them together, created a coherent, forcefully engaging aesthetically whole.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson
"What makes them special is their sexy wit and intelligent design. Let's have more of this in the dance world, please."Broadwayworld.com, NYC
BWW Review: BRIDGMAN|PACKER Pack Sex and Art Into 3-D Renderings
by Juan Michael Porter II July 20, 2016
Myrna Packer and Art Bridgman in "Voyeur" Photo Credit: Tyler Silve
If we've been here before, then why aren't the returns diminishing? The sequence repeats itself all night long in continuous loops and yet the eye never wanders. To the contrary one is drawn in deeper with each new repetition. Is it the weather-beaten beauty of the performers and the total investment with which they infuse every gesture? Is it the fusion of technology, holograms, and art? Looking around at the audience in The Sheen Center on July 13th, 2016, one is taken by the fact that the patrons are mature in age and completely in sync with this new mode of technology. Going off of appreciation alone, it seems that there is not a luddite in the room for this multimedia spectacle of art that would not look out of place at Coachella. This is art that "younger audiences" think of when they ask for something cool.
Created by long time partners Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer, "Remembering What Never Happened" and "Voyeur" fused the idea of interacting with memories - both recent and far flung - in real time to compose a portrait of a couple in climax. "Climax" because what has come before has placed these two at the breaking point where the future is up for grabs; anything and everything might happen and the anticipation keeps one on the edge of the seat at all times. It is possible to take a more abstract view of the relationship between these two. It could be that the man and woman - played with swaggering verve by Mr. Bridgman and sensual heat by Ms. Packer - were simply bodies moving in space that could not resist coming back to each other over and over again. With "Voyeur" - which used a film of repeated encounters, throughout which the performers wandered and interacted in echo or response - this notion of two bodies with a magnetic charge for one another transcended the abstract through the mournful approach taken by the two. There is never a moment of reproach, though one can see in the
Myrna Packer and Art Bridgman in "Voyeur" Photo Credit: Tyler Silver
Myrna Packer and Art Bridgman in "Remembering What Never Happened" Photo Credit: Bridgman|Packer Dance
Transient thought and fleeting memory never come to mind in the opening concert piece, "Remembering What Never Happened". The simple conceit is that a person moves and then a 3-D rendering is projected next to that person, sometimes in canon, sometimes in real time. It sounds like a thing out of science fiction and it felt that way. The result was that I started to look to the echo of the human even as I connected with the "soul in the machine". Seeing Ms. Packer dance with her projections called to mind Medea conjuring magic to assist Jason and his Argonauts. There is something slightly wicked in the way she carves through the air with her body. It could be her smirk that is not quite a smirk; more likely it is that she clearly revels in dancing with her sister selves. Whatever the answer, I felt that I got to know her better in seeing her projections dance around her; reflection allowed for greater impact. With Mr. Bridgman what you saw was what you got. This was not unpleasant; if anything it helped to ground the proceedings while allowing Ms. Packer to unleash her orgiastic fervor without unbalancing the proceedings. These two are to be applauded for refining their work unto the scintilla. Though I found the ending of "Never" wonderful, I could argue that the piece had a more satisfying false ending during which the two came together, descended to the floor, and rolled over one another as their afterimages splashed upon them in waves; here, the projections became frayed and more impressionistic. It was like seeing the spirit of the movement come apart and take to the sky even as the flesh engaged in what felt like sex. This was the action and the memory combining to beautiful release: the action of flesh made atmosphere.
Beyond the fascination of advanced technology, how did this team keep the audience rapt for nearly two and a half hours? A world of projections, repetitive movement, and fine performances amounted to so much more than the sum of their parts during this evening. Why was watching this work so much more satisfying than the more acrobatic and athletic exertions I experience every other night? I won't condescend to sing the praise of "age"; there are plenty of older artists whose work doesn't come within striking distance of the fascination of what Mr. Bridgman and Ms. Packer have created. What makes them special is their sexy wit and intelligent design. Let's have more of this in the dance world, please.
© 2016 Copyright Wisdom Digital Media. All Rights reserved.
"The success of the work cannot simply be attributed to their visual and choreographic genius; no, it is their stage presence that is the icing on the cake…They thrive onstage, living in every moment of their creation."Centerontheaisle.com, NYC
Looking Forward and Backwards with Bridgman|Packer
By Anne Carr, July 21, 2016
Myrna Packer and Art Bridgman in “Remembering What Never Happened” Photo Credit: Bridgman|Packer Dance
New technology and a nostalgia for an older America made for a wonderfully imaginative and unique evening at the Sheen Center last week. Bridgman|Packer is Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer, who have been creating award-winning work together for many years. And after seeing these two premieres, it’s little wonder why.
The evening begins with Remembering What Never Happened, comprised of a series of short vignettes. Overarchingly, perhaps, it is an examination of memory – what do we perceive and what do we remember afterwards? – but as an audience member, it is enthralling because of the technology. Stage right and stage left are covered with thick black fabric, and upstage is a huge projection screen. It starts simply – Packer does a movement, stops, and the mirror image of that movement is projected back onto the screen. It grows even more complicated from there, as more and more images are captured and projected back, until it grows into a drunken whirlwind of color and movement.
It is a truly impressive feat to work with technology such as this. Choreographically, in a traditional proscenium stage, the audience only sees you from the front, and, naturally, that is how you choreograph. Once you layer video capture and projection on top of that, you must be hyper-aware of how your movement looks from all sides, as the camera can (and certainly at some point will) project you from the front, back, side, above, etc. And doing that without making the audience’s eyes want to fall out of their heads is even more impressive still. The second premiere on the program, Voyeur, was inspired by the works of American artist Edward Hopper. Even if the name doesn’t ring a bell, his paintings probably would – particularly “Nighthawks,” the iconic portrayal of several customers sitting at the counter of an all-night diner. His works are a hearkening back to an older time; where life was slow and barns were a plenty.
The work really begins at intermission, as a crew begins to assemble a house, of sorts, on the stage. Downstage is a wall with a window and a door, creating a room onstage. Projected onto the white walls are ever-shifting images: the inside of a home, a pier along the seashore. The audience is invited to come and walk through; anyone who does becomes part of the work, as their real-time image is projected onto the front of the house for those of us still in our seats to watch. As the audience leaves the stage, we hear the sound of a train, propelling us back in time to a small town in 1940’s America. The wind blows off the sea, we sit on the porch of a home on a warm evening, we walk next to a barn. Bridgman and Packer move slowly, comfortably, almost lazily.
As the work unfolds, something about it is so private, as if we shouldn’t be there at all. We truly are voyeurs – yet, we cannot look away. Occasionally the movement ceases and Bridgman and Packer pause, simply holding space and watching the projections. They, too, are voyeurs in this piece, watching themselves. After one or two of these moments, it was apparent that they were loosely echoing some of Hopper’s most well-known paintings: “Morning Sun,” “Summer Evening,” one of Hopper’s self-portraits. The simplicity is lovely, yet there is a nostalgic sadness about it.
The success of the work cannot simply be attributed to their visual and choreographic genius; no, it is their stage presence that is the icing on the cake. Together, their chemistry is palpable, but so is their calm. They thrive onstage, living in every moment of their creation. I left a little sad, for I wanted to dwell alongside them in that long-gone Americana world forever.
"The boundary between reality and imagination is brilliantly blurred…Welcome to the future of dance."Star Tribune, Minneapolis
Dancing With Themselves
Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer use video technology to expand the scope and deepen the dimension of their dance.
By Caroline Palmer, Special to the Star Tribune, October 13, 2010
Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer have been choreographing and dancing together since 1978. But these New York-based artists (Bridgman has Minnesota roots) are not content to inhabit a stage in a traditional manner, as evidenced by their inventive performance at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts on Tuesday night.
In the past several years Bridgman/Packer Dance has advanced the use of video partnering (live performance paired with video technology), which gives the duo an opportunity to manipulate visual imagery so a cast of two is suddenly a cast of four, six or more. The boundary between reality and imagination is brilliantly blurred. These nifty techniques were first seen in the evening's opening work, "Under the Skin" (2005), with the performers' hoop skirts doing double duty as video screens, achieving magic through simple illusion.
"Double Expose" was developed in part during a residency at the Ordway earlier this year. This work celebrates familiar cinematic characters -- most notably fedora-and- trench-coat-wearing spies, lovesick kids and shimmying hipsters. Video footage of urban scenes by Peter Bobrow and live sax riffs by Ken Field set a film noir tone but the atmosphere subtly shifts into a more contemporary vibe (particularly during Karen Aqua's candy-colored animation explosions) and the performers morph into different characters who effortlessly slide between different dimensions and eras.
The technology itself isn't that complicated but the heads-up timing required on the part of the artists is challenging. Bridgman and Packer often perform in front of a camera aimed at one spot on the stage while video of their actions is projected simultaneously onto a screen, so they can interact with each other or themselves in a virtual realm. Occasionally they appear as characters come to life from an onscreen video. Or the pair's images are projected onto one another's bodies, merging into one person.
Bridgman and Packer dance together with such ease and fluidity that they are rarely upstaged by the technology. The choreography is seamlessly integrated into the visual landscape, giving the longtime collaborators an opportunity to exponentially increase their options. They may be just two performers, but in the world of video partnering this pair needn't worry about the physical limitations of time and space. Welcome to the future of dance.
"gorgeous, and deeply moving."Huffington Post, NYC
If You See Something, Say Something
07/14/2016 05:34 pm ET | Updated Jul 18, 2016
Jeremy Gerard, Writer
July 14, 2016: Bridgman|Packer Dance: “Remembering What Never Happened” and “Voyeur” at the Sheen Center.
As a rule, critics don’t review friends any more than Justices of the Supreme Court attack presidential candidates, but sometimes circumstances demand exceptions and, unlike Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I make no apology for telling you to make haste to the Sheen Center for the two more chances you have to see “Remembering What Never Happened,” a comparatively new work (this is its New York premiere, as is the companion piece, “Voyeur”), and a spectacular one, by Bridgman | Packer Dance. I’ll just lay my cards on the table: I’ve known half of Bridgman | Packer for 48 years and the other half almost since they began working together a decade later. They danced at my wedding. (Well, everyone danced at my wedding, but they danced.)
Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer are firmly situated at the intersection of modern dance and technology. Not as intellectual exercise or geeky artistic challenge, but in an effort, I think, to update the one and humanize the other. In “Remembering What Never Happened,” they dance and talk about their relationship through the fracturing prism of memory, represented not only by conflicting tales, but with projections, filmed scenes and live video overlaid with an exquisite soundscape that flits stylistically from jazz to classical to pop — you know, like life.
So, on the one hand, you have an obsession as familiar as Maurice Chevalier and Hermione Gingold in Gigi singing “I Remember It Well” (“That dazzling April moon!” “There was none that night / And the month was June”) and as fresh as Beyoncé’s “Lemonade.” Like those two disparate arguments, “Remembering What Never Happened” ultimately is about the miracle of desire — about how enduring passion pretty much trumps everything. Throughout the piece, the dancers dance with multiple, often cascading images of themselves, alone and together, entwined and apart, in two dimensions and three. Some of it was filmed on a rock wall
Afterward, I thought of a favorite Harold Pinter one-act, “Night,” in which two people, long married, recall the first time they made love. After some fairly hilarious back-and-forth, they agree to disagree on the details. But the scene closes with them in agreement on their last words to one another that distant night, repeating to each other: “Saying I will adore you always.”
In his Nobel speech, Pinter said, “There are not hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false; it can be both true and false.” “Remembering What Never Happened” is gorgeous, and deeply moving.
I ought to give as much space to the second work on the program, “Voyeur.” Bridgman | Packer’s equally ambitious piece is a sweeping, sometimes dizzying reflection on, and response to, the work of Edward Hopper (it was partly commissioned by the Edward Hopper House Art Center, in Nyack, NY). Instead, just go. The Sheen Center is on Bleecker Street in NoHo, there are tons of great places to eat, and there are two more performances, tonight and Saturday, both at 7:30 PM. See sheencenter.org/shows/bridgmanpacker-dance
"In an age overrun with virtual dancing, the team of Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer stands out...by turns, witty, sexy, and surreal."The New Yorker
Goings On About Town: BRIDGMAN/PACKER DANCE
March 29, 2010
In an age overrun with virtual dancing, the team of Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer stands out. They succeed by keeping things simple–just the two of them and their video clones, doing not much more than basic social dancing. The art is in the synching. In "Under the Skin," husband and wife both wear white hoop skirts, screens on which to swap body parts. Such intimate merging–by turns witty, sexy, and surreal–progresses in the new "Double Expose", while the multiplication of selves goes noir, as the pair and their doppelgangers skulk and slink to Ken Field's appropriately jazzy score.
"absolutely spell binding and awe inspiring. Saying it is intense and dazzling is a huge understatement."scaenaluminaria.blogspot.com, Birmingham, AL
BY Jean-Jacques Gaudel, scaenaluminaria.blogspot.com, January 19, 2014
The performance at the Museum of Art of their latest and most elaborate piece "Voyeur" was absolutely spell binding and awe inspiring. Saying it is intense and dazzling is a huge understatement. The grace of the movements, the interaction, the beauty and mystery of the set, the choice of images, the emotional and visual complexity and variety, the originality of the gestural vocabulary, the controlled eroticism, the rich colors, the sophistication, the attention to the smallest detail are all admirable and extremely stimulating.
They bring the still stylized visual world of Edward Hopper to life through light, but re invent it in a complex additive fragmented way. They constantly deconstruct and reconstruct the set, which becomes almost cubist at times.
They are EVERYWHERE, large and small, live and canned, real and virtual in sometimes almost indistinguishable ways. The bodies merge into the projected images and vice versa. Thanksto carefully controlled live cameras, the spectator is made privy to their "private sexual life" in an almost uncomfortable way, and can eavesdrop on what is happening behind the zigzag wall of the set, now and then catching a glimpse of a body part through a window.
As an aging Artist myself, I cannot help but notice and admire how fit, beautiful and sexy these "aging dancers" are, with no trace of make up or artifice.
As Myrna said in the Q&A after the show, she has been dancing since she was seven, but is still hungry and thirsty for more, and it looks like that thirst is still very far from being quenched. Ithink we are going to see these guys create and invent and break new ground for a long time. As far as I am concerned, they have singlehandedly redefined modern dance, and raised the bar of creativity to new levels. Hell, they have come up with an entirely new bar!
"They are taking dance to a new level and have created another dimension on stage."The Backstage Beat, Atlanta, GA
Bridgman/Packer: A Company of Three
BY JENNIFER MCLESTER ON MAR 6, 2012 IN DANCER WITH AN ATTITUDE, THEATER ATLANTA, GEORGIA
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 the artists you bring to Atlanta.
"the most thrilling dance work this reviewer has seen in recent memory...flat-out exhilarating"The Boston Globe
When movement meets technology, the results can be thrilling.
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.
©Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.
The Best of 2006 Boston Arts and Entertainment
By Karen Campdell, December 31, 2006
The Boston Cyberarts Festival came up with a spectacular find this year in the thrilling Myrna Packer/Art Bridgman collaboration "Under the Skin", a fluid blend of the real and virtual worlds in an eye-popping experience that was technologically clever, imaginative, and emotionally resonant.
"An ingenious trompe l'oeil fusion of physical and video-image bodies...merged and then disappeared with magical and fascinating suddenness."The New York Times
Dance Review: DanceNow/NYC Festival at Dance Theater Workshop
By Roslyn Sulcas, September 9, 2006
The evening opened with an excerpt from Memory Bank by Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer, who created an ingenious trompe l'oeil fusion of physical and video-image bodies. Mr. Bridgman and Ms. Packer worked in front of a screen hung with white satin and gauze cloths, and their bodies (and video doubles) appeared, merged and then disappeared with magical and fascinating suddenness.
"a terrific new piece...dazzling illusionism"The Star Ledger, NJ
Dancers Trick The Eye in Virtual Reality
By Robert Johnson, March 26, 2010
NEW YORK – Cult status surely awaits choreographers Myrna Packer and Art Bridgman, a playful couple of dance artists who have parlayed their familiarity with video technology into a reputation for dazzling illusionism.
"Under the Skin," their wildly imaginative piece from 2005, returned on Wednesday at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, joined by the premiere of "Double Expose," an even more elaborate adventure into virtual reality that is sure to delight their fans. With the help of videographers Peter Bobrow and Jim Monroe, and composer Ken Field, they create a fantasy world that must be seen to be disbelieved.
Like skilled prestidigitators, Bridgman and Packer begin by denying everything. A manifestly empty space ringed by black curtains confronts the audience - nothing up our sleeves, see? Then the music insinuates itself, conjuring images out of the darkness. Can a saxophone have sexy hips? It certainly feels that way, in a score where the melody swishes and seems to turn beneath a partner's arm.
Beams of light shoot from projectors, and Bridgman and Packer slip in through the upstage curtains, performing a contemporary jitterbug, or hiding behind cascading showers of typeface. Later they turn their own figures into screens. They seem to become transparent, revealing shadowy legs beneath hoop skirts, or their bodies remain opaque reflecting images of themselves dressing and undressing - a metaphor for the projections that they wear in layers. Their solid flesh shares the space with shining replicas.
"Under the Skin" is a wonderful tease. Intentionally, it does not fool the eye until the party scene near the end, when Bridgman and Packer seem to invite their friends over but actually just multiply themselves. Then it isn't clear, at first, which of the people crossing the backdrop are real, and which are fake.
This game of hide-and-seek lends itself naturally to a Sam-Spadish detective story in "Double Expose," a terrific new piece that adds animations by Karen Aqua to the virtual mix along with colorful outdoor locations. Here Field's saxophone becomes a foghorn on a dark and stormy night, and we see Bridgman from two angles at once, as a Private Eye stooping to retrieve a clue. He pursues Packer, a mysterious woman in a pillbox hat, through an urban labyrinth of bridges, underpasses, and crowded streets.
The mystery cannot be solved, because this dance's subject is romantic obsession. Packer, the auburn-haired temptress with a tart, knowing look, and Bridgman, her stolid companion, transform themselves into the gumshoe and his quarry; into a pair of teenage club-goers whose only physical contact is an on-screen fantasy; and into yet another pair of lovers whom we first spot necking on the street in the filmed background of a detective scene. When this "make-out" couple take center stage, her image doubles vaguely, and she appears as a tiny projection inside him like a memory he can't shake.
Because of its rectangular frames, the scene where all the characters end up in bed together owes perhaps too much to the sandbox in Susan Marshall's "Cloudless." Technical glitches are a definite possibility. Yet by strolling past the intersection of life and technology, "Double Expose" offers an evening of delights.
"veers between the freaky and the beautiful. They comprise the languages of our bodies and our minds."The Boston Globe
Couple's 'Trilogy' Reflects on Life, Love, and Art
By Thea Singer, December 8, 2007
Choreographers Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer don't so much mix dance with video as meld the two to forge a whole new compound. They posit onstage a kind of hall of endless mirrors, in which the reflections are as much theirs as they are of central truths about ourselves. In the "Trilogy" of pieces that CrashArts presented at the ICA last night, the questions raised ran the gamut: What separates the self from the other - and art from arbitrary motion? How do our memories affect our everyday actions? And simply, how, mechanically speaking, does a partner lift his mate?
The answers came not from the team of Bridgman/Packer alone but from their intense collaboration with filmmakers Peter Bobrow and Jim Monroe.
"Memory Bank" (2007), a Boston premiere with live music by percussionist Glen Velez, examines how the past intersects with the present. Video time-delay software allows the performers' images to be recorded and then projected back at delayed intervals. Hence Packer, lanky and sinuous, pushes a leg open and her image, projected on one of three screens, follows suit a moment after. Or Bridgman, sinewy on all fours, crawls between a table's legs, only seconds before his afterimage does the same. Tiny versions of the two dancers intermittently float down floor-to-ceiling screens. They're marionettes cut loose from their strings. Wait. Was that Bridgman the man or Bridgman the image who just flashed by? The question hangs in the air: Are we nothing more than, in the Borgesian sense, the projection of someone else's dream?
Also a Boston premiere, "Seductive Reasoning" (2003), to music by cellist Robert Een, brings to life (and the small screen) the ties that bind and sometimes fray between a longtime couple like Bridgman/Packer. Images of Packer now circle her like a conch shell, now draw a pentagon around her head. Bridgman joins her, and then their coupledom replicates, populating the stage. She dances with his virtual self, he with hers. The piece is a testament to how a partner can be enhanced as well as distorted in the other's eyes.
"Under the Skin" (2005), to music composed and performed by saxophonist Ken Field, is just that: A journey of Bridgman and Packer inside one another's skin. The two wear fabulous white hoop skirts. In turn, each raises the fabric over his or her head, and they magically interchange torsos and legs. The result veers between the freaky and the beautiful. In the background, elements rain down a scrim: ATGC, the nucleotides that make up our DNA. The 1's and 0's that made up early computerese. They comprise the languages of our bodies and our minds.
© 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.
"an amazing visual spectacle, a fantastic and seamless blend of video projection and live dancing...in which profound artistry and dazzling technique were perfectly matched...They call that genius."The Birmingham News, Alabama
Bridgman/Packer's Birmingham program a dazzling mix of dance and tech
5 stars out of 5
By Phillip Ratliff, Saturday, January 19, 2008
Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer, two lean, mean, 40-something dancers from New York City, presented an amazing visual spectacle, a fantastic and seamless blend of video projection and live dancing Thursday at the Alys Stephens Center.
The title of their masterpiece is, simply, "A Trilogy." Beneath the simple title lay a profound, potentially perilous concept -- that people are layered, complex creatures capable of projecting multiple personas and harboring deep, shadowy inner selves. Bridgman/Packer relentlessly explored this theme throughout their 90-minute performance.
While the technical dimensions of the concert were jaw-dropping, it was this relentless, ever-searching quality that was so moving. The first installment of the trilogy, "Seductive Reasoning," started simple, with Bridgman and Packer dancing alongside projected and filtered live images of themselves. Surely that bit of sleight of hand was enough to wow the audience, but Bridgman/Packer would go on to much, much more. In a blink, pre-recorded images would morph from Bridgman in suit and tie to him completely (yet obliquely) nude. (After all, what are we beneath our business attire?) Streams of numbers and symbols poured across video screens and engulfed their bodies. The dancers used scrims to create collages of human forms, projected images of one member onto the other for comical moments of gender-bending, and turned white hoop skirts into billowy screens.
The inventiveness never ceased. There wasn't an image or a gesture that wasn't both meaningful and technically marvelous. At the question and answer session, the audience would hear that the dance trilogy took five years to complete, through a painstaking process of trial and error with the duo's brilliant collaborators, musicians Robert Een, Ken Field and Glen Velez and video artists Peter Bobrow and Jim Monroe.
"A Trilogy" was surely one of the finest artistic collaborations to come to Birmingham in recent years. If ever there was a work in which profound artistry and dazzling technique were perfectly matched, "A Trilogy" is it. They call that genius. "A Trilogy" is certainly a work worthy of the term.
© 2008 The Birmingham News. All rights reserved.
"dynamic, stunning, provocative...each piece teetering between moment and memory, body and illusion"Anchorage Daily News
REVIEW: Jaw-dropping dance by Bridgman, Packer and a host of themselves
Bridgman Packer: Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer in "Under the Skin."
By Dawnell Smith, January 25, 2008
If you like saturating your senses, then scramble over to Alaska Dance Theatre for a jaw-dropping marvel of sound, film, movement and light. Don't second guess yourself. Just go, even if your idea of the perfect weekend means watching "Knocked Up" out-takes over a bag of chips.
What Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer accomplish through multi-media dance is dynamic, stunning, provocative and occasionally startling. Screens and lighting create shadows while video projections sustain a virtual counterpoint to the actual dancers, each piece teetering between moment and memory, body and illusion.
Video images appear on everything from black curtains and veils of tulle and satin to their clothing. The dancers interact with these images in exacting ways, so precision counts. They execute their work fluidly after nearly 30 years together.
At times playful or vulnerable, chaotic or still, each and every piece poses questions of identity and reality. Excerpts from "Memory Bank" create a mesmerizing, sensual puzzle of limbs and torsos as the dancers mingle with each other as well as with recordings of themselves projected back at delayed intervals.
Another pieces, "Under the Skin," plunges into an exhilarating blast of images as the two dancers move in and out of hidden gaps in the curtain while a wily sax-soaked kind of keeps up the flow. Just when you think you know where the real Bridgman or Packer is, the image floats away on a field of text.
Sound confusing? Don't worry. The intrigue of each layer builds rather than distorts visual appeal and understanding. They clearly welcome the somber and thoughtful as well as the clownish. Packer and Bridgman know how to put on a show that dazzles in the moment and lingers long afterwards.
Thursday night, the audience looked riveted.
"What a trip," one woman said earnestly to a friend at intermission. "Wow, I don't know what to say," said another after the show. Indeed, how does one express a sensory experience so rich in just a few words?
I haven't even mentioned the music, for one thing. Grammy Award winning percussionist Glen Velez composed the music for "Carried Away" and "Memory Bank," and played from a handful of frame drums in those pieces too. He looked unflappable as his hand and fingers blurred around each drum's skin.
Robert Een composed and played cello for "Seductive Reasoning," but caught my attention through song. He sounded at times like the voice of clarity amid visual turmoil.
Bridgman and Packer clearly pick their collaborators carefully, for the lighting and video were equally up to the task.
So go. Immerse yourself in images, questions and illuminations. While movies like "Knocked Up" aren't going anywhere anytime soon, these dancers might not return for a long, long time.
"Disorienting in the best possible sense, Bridgman|Packer Dance is one trip not to be missed."examiner.com
Review: Bridgman/Packer Dance vanquish physical boundaries at the Ordway
By Brad Richason, Twin Cities Performance Art Examiner, October 13th, 2010
Collaborative partners since 1978, Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer have earned widespread acclaim for their innovative use of technology to expand the dimensions of dance. Through the masterful blending of eloquent choreography and creative video projection, Bridgman and Packer envision movements in defiance of physical realties, blurring the division between tangible and intangible until the distinctions cease to matter. Such vivid spellbinding was on full display at the Ordway Center where Bridgman/ Packer Dance performed a program consisting of two impassioned works, Under the Skin and Double Expose. First performed in 2005, Under the Skin proved an ideal work for establishing a hypnotic atmosphere. Silhouetted against a projected image of rapidly scrolling letters, Bridgman and Packers' gracefully intertwining forms morphed into surrealistic contortions before splitting away from their physical selves and vanishing into thin air, only to reemerge (and re-converge) moments later. Through a succession of acts, reality would continuously be reshaped by illusion, casting a dreamlike quality over the production. Conjuring the dazzling environs us the visionary video projections of Peter Bobrow and Jim Monroe. The lithe movements of Bridgman and Packer provide further transformative powers, consistently subverting reality with their synchronous chemistry.
By any reasonable standard Under the Skin is an exceptional achievement, but for this evening's program the work served as a precursor to the even more ambitious Double Expose. Thematically connected by depictions of passion and longing, each act in Double Expose follows a distinctive set of figures through mysterious – and occasionally amusing – cycles of attraction. Interacting against the enveloping video projections of Peter Bobrow, a detective trails a femme fatale, inflamed lovers engage in a sensual ballet, and a hapless romantic is smitten by a woman who only wants to dance. (Featuring a backdrop of kaleidoscopic animation by Karen Aqua, the latter act is a charming highlight.) Each of Double Expose's fantasies merge into a breathtaking finale set, appropriately enough, in the sleeping minds of a couple sharing a bed.
Further atmospherics are provided by the jazz infused styling of composer Ken Field and the expressive lighting of Frank DenDanto III. Playing saxophone over a recorded musical template, Field' s proficient talent can be measured by the invigorating expressiveness his music brings to each of the acts. Likewise, DenDanto' s robust lighting proves essential to depicting the myriad transformations of each scene. Through this inspired pairing of sound and vision, prevailing overtures are smoothly transformed from flirtation to seduction.
Performed with resounding finesse, Bridgman and Packer have achieved a mesmerizing program that moves far beyond physical boundaries into a dreamlike existence of their own creation. Disorienting in the best possible sense, Bridgman/Packer Dance is one trip not to be missed.
"Packer and Bridgman never cease expanding, vanishing and defying the laws of gravity under our astounded eyes."La Presse, Montreal (English Translation)
Illusion et passion
By Stephanie Brody, Montréal Le dimanche 03 avril 2005
This afternoon at Tangente is the last chance to discover the fascinating work of the New York duo composed of Myrna Packer and Art Bridgman. Slightly illusionist, this pair of choreographer-dancers skillfully uses projections and video in order to create works that are dynamic, with all the movement you could wish for and filled with humorous moments of magic. In Under the Skin, the piece shown at Tangente during the first week of the series Corps electronique, the dancers' body movements, already highly physical, explode into a multitude of layers and textures, taking us to the most unexpected places. When their bodies, entwined in a kind of wild tango/jitter bug, are superimposed over a huge serial matrix made up of letters and symbols which are constantly shifting in density, speed and direction, the natural intensity of their movements are seen as perpetually altered and expanded. The effect is hallucinating! Later, the lovely white crinolines worn by Bridgman and Packer become screens, allowing them, through their uncanny accuracy and a live feed video system, to mischievously switch between them their upper and lower body parts. And, thanks to this amusing knack for ubiquity, it is almost impossible to tell whether the tender caresses they are exchanging are virtual or real. Their screen-dresses, which at times remind us - those of us who can remember - of the dresses that Catherine Deneuve wore in the film Peau deAne that were the color of the moon and the color of time, then become the stage for all sorts of magical apparitions, some that are better that others. Packer and Bridgman are skilled duettists who never cease expanding, vanishing and defying the laws of gravity under our astounded eyes.
"an astonishing dance/video experience, merging the real and unreal into the surreal"Philadelphia City Paper
Illusions of Space, DanceBOOM!, Wilma Theater (shared program)
By Janet Anderson, June 12, 2007
Bridgman/Packer Dance (Myrna and Art) started the evening with Under the Skin, an astonishing dance/video experience, merging the real and unreal into the surreal. With wailing jazz sounds and saxophone of Ken Field as accompaniment, the twosome danced in front of moving graphics that they simultaneously disappeared into, floated above and almost always had superimposed on their bodies. They transformed into each other with their white petticoats serving as projection screens. Images distorted, body parts passed between Bridgman and Packer. It was fabulous.