‘X’ marks the spot for Brooklyn-based modern dance duo

Alex Springer and Xan Burley perform "X." Photo by Eric Bandiero. Courtesy of themedianmovement.com

Alex Springer and Xan Burley perform “X.” Photo by Eric Bandiero.

Impact. Alex Springer reaches out an open hand and is met by the back of Xan Burley’s head. The dancers constantly move in and out of connection, intricately weaving their bodies together and sharply pulling away. The duo is performing the evening-length piece, titled “X,” on Friday.

Photo By: Ian DouglasCourtesy of themedianmovement.com

Photo by Ian Douglas
Courtesy of themedianmovement.com

The innovative, versatile and highly artistic duo are in their fifth year of adventure as they take flight in the worlds of dance and dance film. They are not merely dancers — they are choreographers, directors, editors, cinematographers and set and costume designers for the majority of their pieces.

Springer and Burley met as students at the University of Michigan in 2004 and the sparks of an artistic collaboration  ignited. After graduating, they both moved to New York and continued to create together. Then, in 2008, they started the Brooklyn-based company The Median Movement.

“We started the company to function as a vehicle for our unified creative ideas,” Burley said. “Our process is very collaborative in the sense that both of us make artistic decisions together. We don’t choreograph separately.”

The Median Movement is dedicated to creating dance theater that is versatile, evocative and relatable for both the stage and the camera.

Tuesday, Springer and Burley shared a selection of their dance films with a group of students in the Ohio University School of Dance. They humbly revealed the trials of beginning a career, by making comments such as, “the quality of footage is pretty low,” and “we couldn’t afford a good camera,” before showing some of their earlier works. Whether a video seemed “low budget” or had the crisp glimmer of an expensive camera the art of cinematic images, fluid movement and deliberate choices spilled through the film.

“You can direct the eye with film and can be really specific with what your showing,” Springer said. “It has life.”

Photo by: Vesa Loikas

Photo by Vesa Loikas.

One of the low-budget films, and also one of their earliest works, is titled “Daylighting,” and won the silver award in the Documentary Film Association’s 2009 48-Hour Film Project.  Inspired by a river in Korea covered by a road in the early 1900s and restored back to a river in 2009, Burley danced on a road and Springer danced in water, but they both strongly connected to their environments and moved beautifully in a disconnected unity.

They also showed the short film titled, “An Ostrich Proudly,” which is featured on Hulu, as well as an excerpt from the work-in-progress “Horses” and a promotional video for the live performance “X.”

In “X,” the dance “opens on a moment before an end.” That moment reveals ways to disappear as empty space is filled and abandoned, and rituals, molds and perspectives are explored.

Burley said they found inspiration from “shape.”

“The stillness of shape, its profundity amidst chaos, the simplicity of demonstrating shape,” Burley said. “This led us rapidly to ideas of impact, force and memorialization.”

The piece is also inspired by the act of leaving a mark, rites of passages, repetition and the physicality of statues and monuments.

“We were trying to make an impression somehow, which is always our intention as artists,” Burley said. “In some ways, the work represents for us the significance of art-making, how it might indelibly affect any given audience.”

The duo is performing “X” in the Shirley Wimmer Dance Theatre in Putnam Hall Friday, March 22 at 3 p.m. The performance is free and open to the public.

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