Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer, who make up the duo Bridgman|Packer Dance, are award-winning choreographers who have been working in collaboration since 1978. They have performed on three different continents as well as in a host of countries, working to combine live performance with digital media to aid in telling the message of their art. Bridgman|Packer Dance calls their stage work “video-partnered”.
“We actively integrate live performance with video projections. The projects become a vital part of the performance, and this interaction makes a totality of the work,” Packer said.
The group is kicking off the start of a five week residency at the University — the ongoing event began with an info session, featuring a brief introduction about who they are as a group and how their technology-tied techniques shape their performances. More than 25 people hopped onto Zoom to learn more about Bridgman|Packer Dance and what their residency entails.
The duo spent most of the session showcasing their diverse and captivating repertoire. Most of their riveting work centers around the duo dancing beside — and sometimes even with — projected recordings of themselves.
In one of these works, “Memory Bank,” Packer describes performing with delayed versions of herself as creating a new “canon.”
“The projection is delayed by six seconds, adding layers to the performance,” she said. This multilayered performance is a signature trait of a Bridgman|Packer Dance performance.
In “Under the Skin”, Bridgman|Packer Dance examines the human condition. During a particularly moving excerpt, both dancers wear hoop skirts. As they alternated obscuring their upper bodies with the skirt, projections of the duo’s other half were projected onto one another.
“We wanted to ask — what is gender?” Packer said. “We believe this shows the malleability of gender.”
The piece was bewitching as both artists were in sight, but worked to make a single image while being separated. This technique, termed “technological cubism” by the pair, shows more than one perspective at the same time.
“Technological cubism” is very much demonstrated in “Double Expose.” Bridgman|Packer utilizes tracking technology and projection to complete what would otherwise be an obscure image. As the artists are moving in front of and behind one another, the projection completes the image of the full artist where they would be obscure on the other’s body — very much demonstrating the fluidity of dance with the aid of technology.
Bridgman|Packer Dance doesn’t just limit their artistry to live performances. During the info session, they provided an excerpt of their most recent work, “Embrace in the Time of COVID-19.” The pre-recorded video was a two-layered image of the group dancing. For a while, it seems like they may make contact, but they never do. Their images could touch, but the artists themselves were isolated.
During their residency, students from the University — representing a host of majors and schools — will work in pairs during this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study with this innovative dance group. Presented by the U.Va. Drama Arts Board, residencies such as Bridgman|Packer Dance’s only occur once every four years. The residency is scheduled to run until Oct. 24, culminating in a virtual performance by students.
“In Spring 2021, some of the students will have an opportunity for their project to be included as part of an interactive multimedia exhibit,” said the Drama Arts Board.