SCHENECTADY — Modern dance is an abstract art, with bodies moving through 3-dimensional space creating lines that appear and disappear in a snap.
The centerpiece of the British troupe Motionhouse’s performance Saturday night on the Mainstage at Proctors, however, was something very concrete: a large curved wall like a skateboarder’s quarter-pipe that stood in the middle of the stage and rose more than 12-feet.
In “Scattered,” a crowd-pleasing 65-minute piece, that wall, which was designed by Simon Dormon, was not only a screen for projected images — such as glaciers, ice floes, the inside of a freezer, drops of water, a pools of water, a desert landscape, snowfall and avalanches — but also the point from which dancers launched their bodies or to which they threw themselves.
In one segment, for example, the projected image showed the moving surface of a pool of water while the dancers, in twos and threes, performed downstage. Every now and then, though, a dancer would spin away and launch himself or herself at the screen, and the screen would show a splash and ripples, while the dancer slid down the wall, as if breaking through the surface or impossibly skimming atop it.
The dancers themselves — Jade Barton, Claire Benson, Martina Bussi, Giorgio de Carolis, Junior Cunningham, Anthony Middleton, Alasdair Stewart, Rebecca Williams and Daniel Connor — were something to watch: athletic, well-trained and fearless.
Though the performance looked and sounded great (the upbeat score was by Sophy Smith and Tim Dickinson; lighting by Natashi Chivers; and the film by Logela Multimedia of Spain), it didn’t always make sense.
In one dramatic sequence, the projected image showed a waterfall, and the dancers hung from the top of the wall, as if afraid to fall and drown. To intensify the illusion, the film even showed water breaking around the body of the dangling dancer.
Then, for no apparent reason except it looked really cool, one dancer slid down on his back headfirst, the bottoms of his feet raised as a platform upon which another dancer stood as he slid down. A third dancer then put his feet on the second dancer’s shoulders, and a fourth dancer did the same to the third dancer and so on, creating something like a moving human totem pole.
Meanwhile, an escalator suddenly appeared out of the waterfall. So, one after the other, the dancers climb up the escalator, walked atop the waterfall and then slid back down on someone else’s shoulders. Why? Who knows, but it looked great, and the audience oohed and aahed. And when the piece was over, most of the audience rose to its feet in a standing ovation.
“Scattered” represents the U.S. debut of Motionhouse, which is directed by Kevin Finnan, and he has a winner on his hands.
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Mainstage at Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
Length: 65 minutes