“Welcome to the future of dance,” proclaims the Minneapolis Star Tribune in writing about Bridgman/Packer Dance. What that paper’s reviewer is referring to is the duo’s unique mix of video, dance, and music that transforms their performances into what the Philadelphia City Paper describes as “an astonishing dance/video experience, merging the real and unreal into the surreal.”
Experience is probably the best word to describe what the duo of Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer are known for, and audiences will have the chance to enjoy that experience when the Yard brings the awardwinning couple to the PAC this weekend for a performance of two of the duo’s pieces — “Voyeur” and “Table Bed Mirror.”
“Over the years they have built this language of dance and music and video,” says the Yard’s executive director, Alison Manning, noting that the couple have a two-decades-long relationship with the Chilmark dance residency. Previously Bridgman/Packer presented a work-in-progress version of “Voyeur” to Vineyard audiences after working on the piece during their residency here. “I think they’re really expert at using video to allow you to peek into a world to see something you’re not supposed to see,” says Manning. “‘Voyeur’ is the ultimate use of that process.”
That dance is described on the Yard website, “‘Voyeur’ is inspired by artist Edward Hopper’s world of color, light, perspective, and under-the-surface eroticism. Fragmented moments of private lives are witnessed through windows and doorways. As the performers merge and collide with the video imagery, the presence of a seen or unseen viewer lies at the heart of ‘Voyeur.’”
And what more ideal artist to have his work brought to life? Hopper is known for his intimate views of life beyond windows, as in his most famous painting, “Nighthawks,” which features a tantalizing glimpse inside a city diner. One often wonders what’s going on with the people who populate Hopper’s images. Bridgman/Packer has turned that sense of imagination into virtual reality with video, live performance, and very creative sets that allow the dancers to interact with the static world.
That concept is taken to another level with the piece “Table Bed Mirror,” described by the Yard as “a new work that navigates through an illogical and fantastical night of dreams. While galloping through constantly shifting realities, the work references the neuroscience of the dream process and contrasts dreams’ most ridiculously commonplace details with the expansive and outrageous.”
Manning notes that there’s a good deal of humor, even burlesque, to be found in the piece as well. “They’re playing with the juxtaposition of our daily life with the plane of sleep,” she says. “There’s a sense of shape-shifting — working with the idea that in our dreams we become other people. The video allows them to present themselves as many different characters in their dreams.”
Bridgman/Packer has been honored with numerous grants, fellowships, and awards, including a 2017 Bessie (New York Dance and Performance Award) for “Voyeur.” The duo’s work has received high praise from the media, including the New York Times, who called “Voyeur” “ingenious, magical, and fascinating.” The couple has brought its unique dance/video performances to venues all over the world.
“Even if you’re not a dance lover, this mixed-media format offers something for everyone,” says Manning. “From the music to the visual art, to the film, to the dancing. This is a unique opportunity to see “Voyeur” if you missed it last time, or to see this version even if you saw it before. It’s not to be missed.”
Bridgman/Packer Dance perform “Voyeur” and “Table Bed Mirror” on Saturday, March 9, at 7 pm at the Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $25, $15 for seniors, students, and active military and veterans, $5 for children under 12. To purchase tickets, visit dancetheyard.org.