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Author: Sheila Regan
Source: Star Tribune
Date: January 31, 2010

In BodyCartography Project’s “1/2 Life,” playing through Saturday in Minneapolis, dance and video artists Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad collaborate with sound designer Zeena Parkins and visual artist Emit Ramstad to create a mature work exploring the dystopian world of a nuclear holocaust.

The three principal dancers (Beiringa, Ramstad, and New York performance artist Takemi Kitamura) play representatives from the United States, Japan, and Beiringa’s native New Zealand, which is free of nuclear weapons. Robed in plastic turquoise rain suits, the dancers take slow, sliding steps, weaving in and out of 3-by-6-foot boards that are manipulated by the ensemble.

Parkins’ hypnotic sound design featuring acoustic and electric harp, flutes, recorded wind sounds and rustling paper creates an eerie world of a civilization about to collapse. Eventually the chorus moves the boards to form a distorted shape that seems to symbolize the moment of nuclear collapse.

In the second section, Beiringa, Ramstad, and Kitamura appear in white costumes, re-born into the new post-nuclear nightmare. They jerk their limbs, stare at their hands, not completely in control of their bodies. Kitamura has a haunting solo, highlighted by a gorgeous light designed by Heidi Eckwall, falling from directly above her through the cloud of plastic that hangs from the catwalk. She repeats a movement with her arms, as if she is shooing a fly away, but the movement looks involuntary.

The third section takes place in a rolling box, revealing video projections of trees. As the ensemble rotates the box, the three principal dancers create tableaux inside and on top of the box. Visually, the entire section is stunning, and at times frightening. During some moments, the dancers duck their heads in order to appear headless.