The rest of the run for Crispin Spaeth Dance Group's Dark Room at Western Bridge is sold out, but it is a show that people are talking about, and will keep talking about. It is a dance piece that messes with the conventions of performance, but it is also a commanding work of visual art that, in its provocative enactment of mediated viewing, references filmmaking, photography, pornography, and video games.
The performance happens in a pitch-black room. The audience is given hand-held night-vision scopes. The bodies are only visible in the scopes, glowing green and not quite convincing as real humans. The audience of 20 is seated in bean bags on either side of the carpet where the dancers perform, and the dancers' heavy use of the floor draws the gaze across the room to the row of gawkers on the opposite side of the stage, clutching scopes to their faces like innocent '50s moviegoers in 3-D glasses, or crouching soldiers in a nighttime offensive, or perverted spies.
The dancers throw each other to the ground, sashay flirtatiously, threaten each other, and rarely reveal their blindness despite the brashness and complexity of Crispin Spaeth's choreography. It is a tour de force of sex, violence, trust, and fear, performed by Heather Budd, Drew Elliott, Kathy Lawson, Chay Norton, and Jules Skloot to a minimalist, often arrhythmic sound composition by Yann Novak—another territory in which the dancers must find their way without much to guide them. Put down your scope and all you get is blackness, punctuated by breathing and the quiet sound of steps. It's as though the dancers exist inside the scopes instead of in the room.