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  •  REVIEW: CHUNKY MOVE: MORTAL ENGINE

    Chunky Move: Mortal Engine
    Photo by Julieta Cervantes

    Humanity in Black and White

    Chunky Move's Mortal Engine boldly goes. . .

    By QUINN BATSON
    Offoffoff.com

    When new technology breaks through to make a coherent and focused dance piece, many people are contributing their best. Chunky Move's Mortal Engine just works, and at the same time it is unlike anything I've seen presented on stage. Director/choreographer Gideon Obarzanek has teamed with video engineer Frieder Weiss, sound and laser artist Robin Fox and composer Ben Frost to create an unreal world whose characters still feel essentially human. The sonic and visual effects are startling and disorienting but still illuminate the gist of the piece, basic concepts of human duality and the struggles this duality creates.

      
    CHUNKY MOVE: MORTAL ENGINE
    Choreography by: Gideon Obarzanek.
    Dancers: Kristy Ayre, Sara Black, Marnie Palomares, Lee Serle, James Shannon, Charmene Yap.
    Music by: Ben Frost.
    Set design by: Richard Dinnen and Gideon Obarzanek.
    Costumes by: Paula Levis.
    Lighting design by: Damien Cooper.
    Interactive System Design: Frieder Weiss.
    Laser and sound art: Robin Fox.
     SCHEDULE
    Brooklyn Academy of Music
    December 9-12, 2009

    Much of the piece is binarily lit; there is black, and there is white, and the two take turns dominating the stage, first singling out figures in pools of light on a dark stage and then singling them out in pools of darkness on a bright stage. Light or its absence follows the dancers as they move, with ghostly traces and meltings, as if light and darkness are seeping into and out of the bodies on stage. Many different elements break up this basic theme, however, giving the piece constant tension. Characters moving slowly and somehow making humorously amplified scrunching sounds can at any moment be assaulted by some crazy kaleidoscopic spinning geometries of shapes that are accompanied by intense music and sound, often serving as a scene changer while dancers unobtrusively exit or enter the raked platform that serves as the stage. The set design by Richard Dinnen and Obarzanek works well to break up the piece as well. Panels that slowly rise to vertical make dancers less abstract and also allow them more control over the lighting and sound that their movements are triggering, for instance shattering patterns of lines with their bodies or creating little sonic storms.

    Though the various effects are too numerous and layered to detail here, some images do stick. A sequence of a dancer and his/her "shadow" who, usually, mirrors him is an elegant and wry illustration of the darkness inside us that, usually, follows the light. The first dancer to enter the stage makes only a small sliding sound in near darkness, an eerie way to enter our consciousness and a subtle way to begin the piece. Segments where dancers leak cosmic "dust" as they move are beautifully evocative, like watching the slow but inexorable shedding of life that goes on invisibly every day as we move through the world. And there is humanity among all the abstraction, both in duets and in sections with individuals breaking away from and into a clumped group.

    A fullblown laser show in science fiction green invades the theater soon after the grey fog that has entered has ushered out the black and the white. Though almost unrelated to the rest of the piece, the sheer spectacle and feeling of being sucked into a vortex make this section powerful and otherworldly. Figures in silo do make their way through the clouds of green almost to keep us oriented and watching the stage, as concentric, morphing cones of laser light carve the space with some sort of visual tractor beam.

    DECEMBER 14, 2009
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK


    Reader comments on Chunky Move: Mortal Engine:

  • Way!?   from Guffer, Dec 24, 2009

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