This May, one of the foremost dance venues in New York City, The Joyce Theater, is venturing out beyond its permanent home in Chelsea, to present “cutting edge artists in intimate spaces” through a new initiative titled Joyce Unleashed. Considering the impetus that gave rise to this mini-festival, the curatorial decision to present this innovative work at the 3LD Art & Technology Center, the nexus of art and technology, seems like a perfect match.

Ariel Freedman © Stephen Delas Heras
Ariel Freedman
© Stephen Delas Heras

Indeed, Zoe | Juniper – the brainchild of Seattle-based choreographer Zoe Scofield and the new media artist Juniper Shuey, who have been creating collaborative works since 2005 – puts on a confident display of considerable talent in this evening’s presentation of BeginAgain. The work operates somewhere on the cusp of an audio-visual exhibition and a dance performance, and the company clearly puts in a great deal of thought to seamlessly integrate the show’s physical elements (installation design and moving bodies) with its more ephemeral aspects (projections, lighting and sound design.)

Zoe Scofield and Ariel Freedman © Stephen Delas Heras
Zoe Scofield and Ariel Freedman
© Stephen Delas Heras

The result of their efforts is a highly intriguing (and thought-provoking) installation/performance. Part of the work’s rewards is its richly layered design and dramaturgy. The team sets up the space as a magic box of sorts, with audience evenly divided on the opposite sides of the black-box theatre, and the performance space diagonally bisected by two transparent plastic screens that form a triangular area in the middle, while the two unobstructed walls also double as large projection surfaces. The middle section of the stage – metaphorically as well as literally – acts as a prism, endlessly reflecting and refracting the performers as well as the projected images – and the notion of mirroring is indeed the main axis (and the leitmotif) of the piece. Primarily a duet between Scofield and Ariel Friedman (who are co-credited for the choreography), the performers’ elaborate and finely executed movement is often in unison, contrasted with sections of violent physicality, as if the two were struggling to break free from the bond that unites them.

Zoe Scofield and Ariel Freedman © Stephen Delas Heras
Zoe Scofield and Ariel Freedman
© Stephen Delas Heras

In fact, from the opening moments of the piece, Scofield and Friedman’s nymph-like presence fills this dynamic space, and the images of duality are repeatedly explored and refracted throughout the prismatic stage, opening itself to a range of Freudian (or should I say, Lacanian) interpretations. I perceive the triangular structure in the center defined by two see-through screens as a psychological realm, a battleground for the characters’ inner struggles, while the surrounding areas, covered with fresh dirt, open up a stage for a world that is closer to the nature, giving rise to the more peaceful, sensual movement. Much like the choreography itself, the projections are rife with mirroring imagery – to a square, one could say: not only are the twin-like movements displayed on those walls, they are often simultaneously executed on the stage by the two protagonists.

Annie Rigney and Ariel Freedman © Stephen Delas Heras
Annie Rigney and Ariel Freedman
© Stephen Delas Heras

While imbued with psychology and memory, exploration of identity, and images of childlike innocence, its loss, and the subsequent attempt to reclaim it, the work also succeeds in evoking a mythological dimension through the rich use of metaphors. For instance, the dancer Annie Rigney spends much of the early part of the performance lying in the dirt, parts of her body being cast in plaster – when she finally rises, the mold remains, leaving a ghost-like imprint of her body; or, in another instance, Shuey’s projections feature sculptural shapes of performers’ bodies that resemble trees, reinforcing the forest-like installation design. With its fine attention to detail, and highly inventive use of choreography and design, BeginAgain offers a fertile terrain for a journey within one’s own imagination.