Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Fringe 2011 Review: When the Sky Breaks 3D

Posted by metaphorical on 27 August 2011

When the Sky Breaks 3D

1h 0m
VENUE #5: Dixon Place
Performance seen: Fri 26 @ 9:15

Rating: 7
(using the BroadwayWorld rating system of 10=effusive praise; 9=excellent; 7/8=positive with some reservations; 5/6=respectfully unenthused; 3/4=mostly negative; 2=little to recommend; 1=offended, insulted, angered)

On the Friday that turned out to be the last day of the Fringe, I was determined to see three shows, as I had on the Friday that the festival opened. That first night I saw COBU as the last show. It was a wise choice; the torrent of drumming and hip-hop dancing washed over the audience—the perfect thing to see at 9:45 pm. So last night I employed the COBU strategy and ended the evening with “When the Sky Breaks 3D,” a 3D-enhanced show by the Brooklyn-based hip-hop troupe Decadancetheatre.

Dance is already the most 3D of all the arts. As it turns out, when I put on the 3D glasses to best see 3D images being projected onto a back wall, the images popped forward in the way they’re supposed to, but the dancers in front of them flattened. Worse still, dance requires sharp lines, but, like the way a prism breaks up light, the 3D glasses turned the outlines of the dancers into rainbow blurs. In only one number, which featured complicated angular hand gestures (picture a hip-hop version of the sign language of the deaf), did that work to an advantage.

The 3D images consisted, as the show’s name would suggest, mainly of skylines and other cityscapes as seen looking upward. For me, the urban images served no particular purpose. I suppose cornfields would have been incongruous with the hip-hop music but they would have been no less integrated with the dance.

There were only a couple of points in the show that offered the hoped-for integration. In one, the dancers, facing away from the audience, run in slow motion through a beautiful blue sky. In my favorite piece, the finale, which was a sort of ecstatic urban rain dance, raindrops fell onto the dancers quite believably. In other numbers, however, the backdrop was ignorable or worse—occasionally images were faintly projected onto the dancers’ grey shirts.

There was little integration between the music and the dancing, either—nothing that went beyond matching steps to the beat, and one number, to Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life,” didn’t even do that. The audience didn’t seem to care one whit, though, as it rewarded break-dance body sculpture moves, poses, and spins with applause and whoops of glee—as it did for just about every number.

The music was terrific throughout and there’s no having a bad time watching human forms in coordinated motion to it, but I think the 3D hindered the show at least as much as it enhanced it. Technologists have taken on the challenge of large-scale glasses-free 3D (it already works for handheld game devices); when it works not just for the living room but the dance stage as well, Decadancetheatre will really have something.

[more fringe 2011 reviews here]

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