Friday, August 05, 2005

Are we naked, or... OK, we're naked.

This is shaping up to be the weekend of non-traditional dance performances. "The Living Canvas," now playing at Victory Gardens, is basically naked people covered by projected images. How naked? Completely naked. This show wins Way Off Loop's Full Frontal Male prize (previously held by "The Judas Kiss") for having the human penis on display pretty much all the time.

But, true to its little program philosophy statement, "The Living Canvas" is totally non-prurient. It's nifty and arty and playful, not sexy. And at times, it's sublime nifty. A naked human body seen under certain kinds of projections, moving, the projections moving, sculpted by light, flattened out by patterns..... can just look amazingly cool. Bodies don't always look like bodies. Depth is played with in funny ways. Sometimes- under a leopard print projection, for example- the performers seemed tatooed all over. Sometimes they seemed totally flat, as if they were made out of the pattern. You could swear, sometimes, that you had to be watching something on a screen.

The show comes off best when it just plays with that awesome central conceit. The performers change with their projected environments, but they can also move from one field of patterns to another. Like the delightful moment when a wave of water projections washed up on a shore of sand projections, spurring an adorable beach scene. The more serious arty bits dragged a little. And one number- a war protest piece- just didn't hit me right. Naked people are so blatant, and photojournalism of atrocities is so overwhelming... projecting one on the other is a bit unsubtle.

I think the show could have used a little tightening, and a better beginning to end flowthrough... it's also a bit much to ask audience members to join in... but the pieces that work and the sheer beauty/weirdness of the images makes it worth seeing.


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