There are a lot of reasons to appreciate the Next Move Festival of Modern Dance at Proctor’s. Topping the list is the chance to see modest companies that would not normally be available to Capital Region audiences.
Take for example SCRAP Performance Group from Philadelphia, which appeared on Friday night with Bridgman/Packer Dance. This ensemble of women was a marvelous find for festival curator and choreographer Ellen Sinopoli as this sextet riveted with its apocalyptic creation “Tide.” Co-conceived by Myra Bazell and Madison Cario, the dance underscored how we waste our time with useless pursuits — shoe shopping, reading, playing games — while the world around us slowly collapses.
The point was driven home by a quintet of pale-faced dancers who were set adrift, roiling back and forth as if caught interminably in oceanic waves. Back and forth they flopped and churned, while a ringmaster, Bazell, dressed in black, mocked the sleepy apathy that led to the disaster. They told their tale of how it came about. There was no dramatic shift, just a slow leak, a crack that tore open, sealing global destruction.
When they finally landed on solid ground, marked off by a rectangle of sand, this ragtag crew gasped and clawed at each other’s clothes. They reached for sustenance too, until finally, they were blessedly relieved of their suffering.
“Tide” was disturbing admonition. We take too much for granted.
In contrast was the light-hearted husband-and-wife team of Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer. More illusionists than dancers, these two senior performers created magic with light and video. Their part of the program opened with “Under the Skin,” in which their dancing silhouettes grew large and small behind a scrim. Of course, it was all achieve with simple lighting, but it was clever and delightful nonetheless, especially because these two have an understanding, the give-and-take of two people that can anticipate each other’s most tiny action.
The couple also performed the surprising “Carried Away,” in which their skin and their white attire served as screens, confounding the audience’s vision. At one point, Bridgman’s torso became attached to Packer’s legs and vice versus. Packer would be dressing in a shirt and tie only to be revealed that she wasn’t. The trick of lights and video kept everyone guessing as to what was real.
As the piece progressed, Bridgman and Packer multiplied. Projections of themselves popped up everywhere. And the real dancers partnered the images. Finally, the real dancers disappeared and the projected ones flew up into the sky – carried away by the frivolity.
Lovers of contemporary dance who missed Friday night’s program have another chance to enjoy the Next Move Festival tonight. That’s when host, Ellen Sinopoli, and her ensemble perform with Jonah Bokaer and Daniel Arsham. If it’s half as pleasant as Friday, it will be worth the price of admission.