Close Up: Bridgman|Packer Dance
This fall Bridgman|Packer Dance tours the Northeast performing Remembering What Never Happened and Truck. For much of the tour, they will be traveling in a 17-foot U-Haul, which will also serve as the performance space for Truck. As they are getting ready for the tour, we had the chance to ask Artistic Directors Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer some questions about their enduring collaboration, their work with video, and their inspirations.
Artistic Directors, Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer, are Guggenheim fellows as well as recipients of numerous grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts. Based in NYC, they have been presented both nationally and internationally in venues including Lincoln Center, City Center Fall For Dance, Jacob’s Pillow, Bates Dance Festival, Spoleto USA, Munich International Dance Festival, and Tancforum.
You two have been making work together since 1978. What initially sparked your collaboration? What do you think is the most unique aspect of your collaborative relationship? B|P: We had been performing together in several companies in NYC, and had a shared aesthetic. We were excited to explore the physicality of partnering as a metaphor for the push and pull in a relationship. There has always been chemistry between us that we bring to the stage. It is now informed by our three decade history, which creates the potential for a lot of nuanced communication in performance.
Your work integrates live performance and video technology. Can you describe the moment you knew you needed to work with video? B|P: In our studio at midnight, in November, 2002, Art videotaped himself, projected his image life-size, and began stepping into and out of it. That night we experimented with the relationship between his live self and his projected image. By 3 am, we knew that we had found a new direction in our work. We began to explore the ambiguity between what is real and what is image through the integration of video into our live performance. Out of that night’s discovery, the next 14 years have evolved.
Truck will be performed at college campuses, in parking lots, and on lawns, throughout the Northeast, this fall. What drew you to create a performance space out of a U-Haul truck? B|P: The idea first came from our interest in taking performance to unusual places, possibly reaching audiences that might not go to a theater to see dance. Truck can be performed anywhere a truck can be parked. It also excited us to take something utilitarian and ubiquitous, and re-imagine it as a space filled with performance and video projection.
Remembering What Never Happened dives into the surreal landscape of our imagination and our memories. Can you tell us more about creating this world of constantly shifting perceptions? B|P:
Three different sources of inspiration came together leading to the creation of this work.
The first was our discussions with neuroscientists at Columbia University as well as from the writings of Siri Hustvedt, Eric Kandel, and Oliver Sachs. Studies show that each time we remember, we recreate new neuro pathways in the brain. The act of remembering and the act of imagining are deeply interrelated. Remembering What Never Happened takes this relationship further to create a world of transformed visions on stage.
The second was our working with simultaneous computer video processing that had time-delay and image-altering capabilities. Multiple video images appear, morph, and evaporate in response to our live movements on stage. In a departure from our past work, this imagery could evolve from photo realism to strokes of abstraction.
The third was our filming in the Mojave Desert. We took that footage and, through editing, transformed it into surreal landscape using our new video processing techniques. This was all made possible through our collaboration with Technology Designer Phillip Gulley, who allowed our ideas to be realized through an elegant and efficient software design.
Catch Bridgman|Packer Dance at:
Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan, CT (Truck and Remembering What Never Happened 9/11 – 9/12)
Fringe Arts in Philadelphia (Truck 9/17)
MCLA Berkshire Cultural Resource Center’s DownStreet Art Festival in North Adams, MA (Truck 9/24)
Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord, NH (Truck 9/25)
UMass Amherst (10/1 – 10/2)
Follow their journey on Twitter at @TRUCK_ontheroad, and with #danceinatruck.
Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer’s answers have been lightly edited for this article.
Photography (c) Bridgman | Packer Dance