nytheatre.com review by Clinton Orman
August 14, 2010
Perspectives, an evening of movement arts with film and video by Shannon Brunette, is comprised of individual segments by Deliquescent Designs, listed as Stephanie Dixon, Mary Beth Leigh, Tamora Petitt, and Karen Voyles. Some of the segments are credited as choreographed by one of these individuals, some by the entire company.
The piece consists of modern dance accompanied by recorded music and projected moving images and minimal set elements. With the exception of some background chatter in the first segment there is no spoken dialogue by the performers, although there is dialogue in small parts of the projected elements.
The first segment adds a spontaneous element to the choreography by asking four audience members to choose a number between one and four, which then correspond to the four performers. This plants the notion that at least some of the later segments incorporate a chance element into their choreography as well. In the segments using the more experimental music this is easy to imagine since the rhythms are so seemingly random.
The program, the short description in FringeNYC's material, and the names of the segments suggest that the piece is related to the environment, specifically (although not explicitly stated) to issues linked to climate change—wildfires, the changing Arctic, etc. However, I didn't pick up anything that specific from the piece itself. One short segment consists of found footage from an educational film from the 1950s in which an animated "Mr. Sun" and "Father Time" speak and argue with one another. This could be used to provide some context to the rest of the piece—the same could not be said, as far as I can tell, of another segment of '50s footage about bowling.
There are images of both the natural and the manmade world in the projected element of the piece. With the exception of the '50s footage mentioned above, the projected material is soft and ephemeral—the outline of mountains, a shimmering transparent fabric that is slowly revealed to be a curtain in a windowsill—and serves as background to the movement of the performers. The movement of the performers suggests the natural world at times—vegetative forms swaying in wind or water or the small mechanical-looking movements of birds or insects for example—and at other times seems firmly rooted in the human world.
The music (with different composers for the different segments) seems to fall into two basic categories: experimental, atmospheric and droning, and more traditional—even reminding me at times of the Rite of Spring by Stravinsky. The droning music at times suggested a growing intensity, but for the most part stayed at about the same level—opting for the hypnotic instead of eliciting an immediate reaction.
I found very little in the way of conflict or causality anywhere in the piece, which is not to disparage it, but it does mean I run out of things to say about it fairly quickly. On reflection, it seems that for a piece depicting a subject matter that involves conflict—even perhaps crisis—between forces as basic as man and the elements, there was a remarkable calm and lack of dissonance to the piece. Perhaps it is suggesting that all change, even toxic change, is part of the greater cycle.
I found the piece engaging to my senses and attention; I was not bored or by it, although it didn't make a very lasting impression on me, positive or negative.