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    Josh Palmer in Gibney Dance: View Partially Obstructed
    Photo by Anja Hitzenberger
    Josh Palmer

    Flowering Videoland

    Gina Gibney's View Partially Obstructed changes space


    Gibney Dance presented what seems like a whole new world at Baryshnikov Arts Center, both for Gina Gibney's choreography and for the use of video in the piece. View Partially Obstructed is a world unto itself through a combination of lighting, music, projected video, moveable scrim panels and overlapping dance stories. This is a big piece in so many ways.

    Choreography by: Gina Gibney.
    Dancers: Natsuki Arai, Janessa Clark, Michael Novak, Josh Palmer, Hannah Seidel.
    Music by: Ryan Lott.
    Set design by: Lex Liang.
    Costumes by: Lex Liang.
    Lighting design by: Kathy Kaufmann.
    Live video projections: Joshua Ott.
    Baryshnikov Arts Center
    October 13-17, 2009

    Certainly the dancing is central. Newcomers Joshua Palmer, Natsuki Arai and Michael Novak bring dynamism and variety. Arai's duets with both Palmer and Novak are beautiful, though Palmer and Arai seem to be the focal couple, beginning and ending the piece. Hannah Seidel dances like a powerful spectre for much of the piece, sometimes half-hidden behind scrims and sometimes as a third-party observer. Her solos stand out. And Janessa Clark joins the party well into the piece as a sort of grande dame/queen bee presence.

    Gibney seems to love scrim panels, and in this piece they work really well, continually reconfiguring space, tension and mood. The other element that makes them unusually effective is live projected video conceived by Joshua Ott, using software he is developing called superDraw. Lighting by Kathy Kaufmann works with Ott's video scribblings to make panels variously opaque and translucent, concrete and abstract.

    Hannah Seidel, Janessa Clark, Natsuki Arai, Michael Novak, with Josh Palmer partially obscured in Gibney Dance: View Partially Obstructed
    Photo by Anja Hitzenberger
    Hannah Seidel, Janessa Clark, Natsuki Arai, Michael Novak, with Josh Palmer partially obscured

    And music by Ryan Lott seems to always fit. 1980s-sounding synths and sounds give the piece a video game feel and also, in conjunction with overall dark lighting, an otherworldly, Tron-like aspect. Plenty of rhythmic pretty bells and synth pads evoke moments of Phillip Glass, but evil, choked bells and various harsh sounds spike the air with tension at other times.

    The overall effect evokes a shifting dream, with characters and stories coming in and out and overlapping each other, changing over time and sometimes lingering in a strange place, like the moment a sleeping/dying woman slowly leaks soul or consciousness into the air, represented by beautiful rising twirling lines that gradually diminish and fade to black.

    Palmer and Arai have early moments of tentative attention and flirtation that seem to develop throughout the piece into something much more substantial. Novak and Arai have a much more physical yet similarly soft and easy interaction as he spins her around his body, neck and shoulders in big lifts that look seamless. Seidel is also full of soft power, giving the four a similar aesthetic. Clark spins her power into and through the others, staying more upright and large while others hit the floor more often. The movement of this piece covers quite a range but always feels right.

    And the lighting and live video projections play well together. The ending, with increasing video static like that on an old TV set that gradually obscures Palmer and Arai in their final duet, is masterful. As the two dancers spin themselves and each other off the stage actively but almost imperceptibly, the whole stage ends up lit by the tiny soft glow of little red green and blue dots that fade away. Beauty.

    OCTOBER 24, 2009

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