Shape-Shifting With Light

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A shadowy, amoeba-like figure wriggles and twists into view, outlined in white like the chalk markings around the body at a crime scene. In Glow, the latest work to reach New York by the ever-adventurous and unpredictable Australian troupe Chunky Move, choreographer Gideon Obarzanek and interactive software creator Frieder Weiss have collaborated to use video projection as a lighting instrument. The solo dancer’s movement instigates the evolving visuals, sending geometric patterns out in waves surrounding her, or creating shadows that seem to take on a life of their own. Shapes evolve and effects shift as the brief but searing work moves through its six sections while the dancer generates, and at times gets lost in, the illusions created by her movements.

“Initially, we were looking at various relationships that could happen by the computer understanding where the body is,” explains Obarzanek, speaking from Vancouver, where Glow was being performed prior to coming to The Kitchen this week. Discovering the motion-tracking technology’s possibilities led him to choreograph “more creature-esque movements.”

“It was able to extend movement, both aesthetically and in a kinetic way,” says Obarzanek. “There was a blurring where the body ends and the projected image begins. This ability to distort the form of the body or accentuate or change the look of how it moves became interesting to me. We worked with the idea of shape-shifting, of the body not being comfortable in the shape that it’s in, searching to shift and evolve. The timeline is fairly elastic, and also the spacing for the dancer is also quite free.”
The audience sits on all four sides, looking down on the rectangular space. “There’s an impression that the body really floats in the frame. That certainly affected the kind of choreography I was making.”  

Obarzanek and Weiss recently furthered their collaboration with Mortal Engine, a more extended work for six dancers that had its premiere in Sydney last month. Obarzanek sees the new work, in which “the body’s gestures are extended by and in turn manipulate the video world that surrounds it,” as the next step incorporating the possibilities he first explored in Glow. With any luck, and before too long, some enterprising presenter will make that the occasion for New York’s next encounter with Chunky Move.

Feb. 7-10. The Kitchen, 512 W. 19 St. (betw. 10th & 11th Aves.), 212-255-5793 ext.11, Thurs.-Sat. 7:30 & 9:30; Sun. 2 & 3:30, $10.

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