Rich rewards from second DanceBoom! installment

Posted: June 08, 2007

Entering the Wilma for the second program of the DanceBoom! festival, I hoped the onstage performances might pack even a fraction of the kinetic wallop of the N.E. Frankford Drill Team's show outside. Its mix of precision marching and hip-hop was downright irresistible; nothing came close. But the program offered other kinds of rich rewards.

Myrna Packer and Art Bridgman's Under the Skin is a gentle tour de force. Collaborators for nearly 30 years, the two fuse videotaped imagery with onstage performance to create complex, resonant sequences. This work speaks about their partnership, layering the image of one on the other to imply such questions as: Are we two or one? Where does one stop and the other begin?

The piece moves through solos and duet sequences that recall social-dance partnering and make smart use of costumes - white hoop skirts for both (ideal projection surfaces) or "going out dancing" clothes.

In the end, the piece's many elements play altogether, as lively as a circus, as a dizzying parade of performers, live and taped, enter and exit. It's like the replay of a history that's long and rich in a couple who are nearly connected at the hip, but still separate.

Group Motion Dance Company showed two works. Akiko Kitamura's Rondo is strikingly graphic, with live feed and recorded video imagery jumping between two screens and six dancers. It plays continually with framing and distortion of largely pedestrian action - speeding up, splitting bodies into segments, showing movement from above.

Compared with earlier performances, Rondo (2005) here looks spread out and overdramatized. But there are plenty of satisfying moments; an episode with Zachary Svoboda leading the group in fake-samurai vocalization is a total hoot.

Silvana Cardell, Group Motion co-director, restaged excerpts from her Machinas Simples (2001). In its dark setting populated by machine-like denizens, it made me think of a police state. Figures are blank-faced, the moves are stripped down, often echoed through clean unisons.

Cardell defies physics with lifts in which the men hoist the women backward in momentary free floats, legs upward. She has dancers perch at the top of a steeply raked square where they use the momentum of falling to sweep their limbs like clock-hands.

A swinging metal ball tethered overhead cuts swaths between the assembled dancers, who seem like sheep, easily divisible, going with the peculiar flow.

The program will be repeated tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m. (streetside performance at 7 p.m.) at the Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad St. Tickets: $20-$25; 215-546-7824 or www.wilmatheater.org.

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