Snappy Dance Theater

May 30, 2007

Snappy Dance Theater

Virginia Wimberly Theater, Boston Center for the Arts

May 30–June 10, 2007

Reviewed by Iris Fanger

Snappy Dance Theater’s 10th anniversary celebration marked a risk-taking venture because of the troupe’s resolve to run a two-week season—a gluttonous chunk of performances for any local dance company other than the Boston Ballet.

            Act I featured a quick, historical survey of Snappy style—athletic prowess matched with circus tricks, bonded to modern dance moves entwined with characters and plot-lines. But it was the second act world premiere, String Beings, that pushed the troupe into more ambitious territory. The new work is a collaboration between artists as equals to combine real-time, animated projections devised by MIT scientist Jonathan Bachrach; a score by Berlin-based, American composer Michael Rodach; atmospheric lighting by Joseph Levendusky; and choreography by artistic director Martha Mason, aided by the seven performers. Electric guitarist, Michael Bierylo and the distinguished Boston Symphony Orchestra violinist, Lucia Lin, were embedded with the cast. Lin proved to be as fearless and fine a dancer as musician, with no qualms about being handed around from knees to shoulders by the other performer.

           The quest for a “Gesamtkunstwerk” or unified work of art, meant that Mason sublimated the dance passages in favor of an overall effect. A pair of onstage cameras translated the dancers into huge outlines, to be projected as white scribbles, quivering on a proscenium-sized scrim that separated performers from audience. At times, the white-costumed dancers were belted into harnesses or carried ropes to underline an abstract theme of “connectedness.”

           Structured in a series of vignettes, each segment involved movement patterns familiar to Snappy fans: runs ending in crash landings onto another performer’s anatomy, lots of time spent upside down, the balancing act of one body atop a second in strange and unexpected ways. One trio featured Bonnie Duncan spinning like a yo-yo on a bouncy rope suspended between two men; later, the figures were seen in silhouette behind a proscenium-high length of stage muslin hung from above. With String Beings, Snappy enlarges its appetite for experimentation, while remaining committed to a theater experience that’s both entertaining and accessible.