CBOT’s Take on “Takes”

Oh, the days when slapping a video behind a dance or music piece made it a ‘multimedia performance.’ The novelty rapidly waned, and our expectations for multimedia are higher now—as they should be. Still, it’s a treat to be newly amazed by the possibilities of video in live performance. The dance/performance installation Takes (presented by Philadelphia-based Nichole Canuso Dance Company at 3LD Art and Technology Center this past weekend as part of the APAP blitz) integrated live video and projections with a subtle, yet knock-your-socks-off level of inventiveness.

The credit for the concept of Takes goes to Nichole Canuso and multimedia director Lars Jan, a 2011 TEDGlobal Fellow who has produced a slew of intriguing performance/installation projects. Performed by choreographer Canuso and Dito Van Reigersberg within the confines of a box created by white gauze-like walls, Takes is a series of snippets about a relationship gone sour. The substance and the magic of this piece lies in live projections of the performers onto the transparent walls of the box: the action inside the box is recorded simultaneously by multiple cameras and superimposed on the walls/screens, creating different perspectives and layers of each moment that add up to more than the individual parts. Combining all this with an evocative sound score and skillful lighting, Takes casts a net of intimacy that is impossible not to fall into.

Nonetheless, the choreography, while no doubt crafted with an eye towards the projections, is largely unremarkable in terms of its movement vocabulary. Structurally, the piece follows the predictable arc of an angst-ridden love story, with some fragments reading more strongly than others, and a few trite moments along the way (ironic that a paper letter takes center stage in an era of electronic communication).

The close-ups and level of detail captured by the cameras mean that gestures come across particularly powerfully, and these are the moments that stuck in my mind: his fingers playfully marching up her knee in the beginning, and later, his fists striking the air in frustration. The solo sections are the least engaging, perhaps because they rely more heavily on movement alone, as opposed to the interactions between Canuso and Van Reigersberg. The performers’ commitment to the work salvages some of these shortcomings, but can’t rescue them entirely.

The suggestive possibilities of the projections and rich quality of the images is nothing less than mesmerizing, but as I watched the video loop roll across the screens at the end, I realized that I was rather satisfied with these pre-recorded projections of movement. Am I just a junkie for beautiful footage? I’d like to think not—Takes is missing something in the link between video, choreography, and performance, and this time, the gap isn’t on the multimedia side.

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