I'd never before seen anything quite like this Philadelphia-based troupe's new show, making its Pittsburgh premiere at the Kelly-Strayhorn this week.
The set was contained entirely within a 25-square-foot enclosure of sheer white fabric, the walls about 10 feet high. Thus the two dancers were completely confined and separated from the audience – most of whom, at this performance, sat on stage. And as Canuso herself and partner Dito Van Reigersberg performed for an hour uninterrupted, those walls doubled as the screens for almost continuous multi-projection of grainy black and white video whose only subject was the dancers' own bodies in motion, as captured on delay by cameras inside the enclosure.
Combine with a complex and varied soundtrack ranging from Latin pop to white noise, and there was more than enough to take in, even if the only set pieces were a few sticks of lightweight furniture inside the scrim.
But the novel staging and production style is no gimmick: While it's possible to imagine the dance work at its heart being performed without the accompanying sets and literally wall-to-wall video, the projections and music deepened the dreamlike narrative of a couple's tender and troubled relationship.
With the live dancers visible inside the scrim, for instance, the projections suggested they were dancing with their own ghosts. High points for me included a passage projecting multiplied images of Canuso's isolated limbs, suggesting ocean waves, and Van Reigersburg's luminously beautiful gestural solo to the Velvet Underground's "Sunday Morning."
This wasn't the first time I'd seen a show on the Kelly-Strayhorn stage while also sitting onstage: The 404 Strand troupe's adaptation of Faust, in 2009, put the audience up there, too. But TAKES went a step further by encouraging viewers to get up and take in the show from different angles.
Most people at this show didn't move around, as it happens. My favorite vantage point was from either of the two accessible corners, which best let you see all four projection-walls at once.
As of this writing, two performances of TAKES remain, at 7 and 9 p.m. Sat., Jan. 15. The early show has stage seating, the 9 p.m. show is floor seating only. www.kelly-strayhorn.org