What looks like an oversized brass steering wheel is planted firmly at stage right, alongside what looks like a narrow loom. From it, dozens of wires extend diagonally toward the ceiling, then hang down at stage left, each holding a small bauble.
This fascinating contraption the first thing you see when the curtain rises on Connected, a work by the Australian dance company Chunky Move. Berkeley-based artist Reuben Margolin has created a kinetic sculpture that frames, drives and stars in this striking work by choreographer Gideon Obarzanek, now making its North American premiere at Lincoln Hall via White Bird Dance. Connected is a dance piece, but it could just as easily be a gallery installation; either way, it riffs on notions of art and the interaction between humans and machines.
There is an opening blast of metallic noise, reminiscent of an industrial machine clanking to life, and then the performers are off, one group dancing wildly to the side while another inserts flat pieces into the baubles to join them together. A woman attaches loose wires to her cohorts' clothing, then stands below the sculpture. As the attached dancers move forward and back, the sculpture rises and lowers, enveloping the women underneath it; an arm or a leg movement creates rippling patterns within the sculpture. It's hard to say whether the dancers are controlling the sculpture or it's controlling them—they look like puppets, collapsing when the strings go lax.
The dancing itself is standard contemporary, effectively staged in circles, columns and squares. There is pedestrian movement, energized ensemble dancing, some floor work and a gestural sequence that echoes, without getting literal, the recording of museum security guards talking about their work. (If you've ever wondered about the inner lives of museum security guards, wonder no longer.) An anecdote about a guard who rescues a missing artwork from a janitor who's about to toss it, thinking it's junk, is especially telling. Whether Connected is art or dance—or both, or a commentary on both—is for viewers to sort out for themselves, but there's no question that its kinesthetic geometry is truly remarkable. HEATHER WISNER