"Video Visions" is a most appropriate name for Ririe-Woodbury's season opener, for the program was jam packed with tantalizing futuristic glimpses, a thousand ideas, an unlimited palette of expression.
When two cameramen, four monitors and a digitizer focus on six dancers, whose images are then projected on two screens in infinite variety, the possibilities for movement, action and special effects are multiplied exponentially, even overwhelmingly.Ririe and Woodbury have a tiger by the tail with this concept, and much of the time they were able to control its lightning-fast, tail-switching power. En route many tantalizing doors were set ajar, behind which these two women and their dancers are well qualified to explore.
Video with its panoply of special effects that transcend limitations of time and space, enlarge and reduce sizes, freeze, move close up, dramatize faces and expressions, superimpose, and call on such techniques as mosaics and posturizing, can strikingly underline the message of a dance, be it dramatic, lyric, or playful.
For example, in "Four Dancers/Two Cameras," a male dancer advanced diagonally across the stage toward a female dancer - prosaically enough in actuality, but invested with great depth and mystery on screen, increasing from a tiny figure to an image of menacing proportions, as two women crossed enigmatically behind.
`Two Men/Three Angles," filmed from atop a ladder, gave a fascinating topside commentary on a sinuous, gymnastic dance - its muscularity, its anatomy of strength - which audiences never ordinarily see.
"One-Two-One Repression" had Janice Haws in Victorian dress, Karen Ramos in leotard, dancing on opposite sides of the screen while the digitizer superimposed one upon the other for a fascinating effect of a spirit trying to shuck off its societal restraints.
In "Posturized Postures" true R.-W. spirit invaded the screens, with masked and draped creatures creeping and crawling, then standing, then elongating weirdly and comically - an inspired bit of whimsical fantasy, which could easily move on into mystery and terror.
"Electronic Shuffle" with James Irvine and Keith Johnson was a delightful soft-shoe music hall romp, where each image joined at the waist - no heads, just two sets of legs, one dancing on the ceiling, one on the floor - and was finally reduced to geometric mosaics.
Though the tempo picked up in the latter half of the program, with proliferating projections on the screens (sometimes dozens of repetitions of one detail) and many video techniques on display, the artistry was not as memorable as in the first half. There may have been a few times (perish the thought) when things didn't go quite the way the editor would have preferred.
Is there an art form here? Most definitely. But the besetting danger is the temptation to fall into trickery, to let a wealthy of detail blunt the artistic point, in which case the effect could be that of romping in front of funhouse mirrors.
As I understand it, video vision is a thing of the moment, greatly dependent upon serendipity. But some of the most striking effects were the planned effects, such as when two women danced in silhouette behind a big face on the screen, or when a giant woman on screen reached out cupped hands and the live dancer seemed to step into them.