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Review 2, 3-4: Thinking Tech
Into the 'Future' with Troika's Smart Video Dance
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2003 Susan Yung
NEW YORK -- Troika Ranch
has further refined the integration of dance with new media in the
premiere of "Future of Memory," seen Saturday at the Duke on 42nd
Street. Artistic directors Dawn Stoppiello (choreography) and Mark
Coniglio (composer and sensory system designer) collaborated on
the video design, one of the key elements of the piece. Here, video
actually seems to be intelligent, capable of learning and quick
to use its newfound material. A periodic montage of images -- a
water drop's crater, feet planted in sand washed by a wave, the
sea, more feet being dripped with blood -- later includes video
feed taken during the performance, giving it a voyeuristic feel.
And we watched video of the performance streamed seconds after it
was performed. It's a chilling reminder of the world we live in
and that pervasive video surveillance makes us invisible to no one.
Aptly titled, the work
addresses memory and the act of remembering on a multitude of layers.
There are the recollections, simple at the outset, but each one
comes with an avalanche of associations of all the senses. Throughout
the piece, the performers spoke of their own memories -- a childhood
birthday, of being dwarfed and intimidated by school, of personal
obsessions. (Obsessiveness is also a recurring theme.) Objects evoke
memories; items were treated like treasures -- handled and inspected,
and then placed on pedestals. The act of recording took on a prominent
role in two onstage video cameras which made both audio and visual
documentation of the performance. Long scrolls of paper unfurled
across the stage to scribbling noises on the soundtrack. The performers
took Polaroids of stage markings, which they later traded like vacation
The movement itself
served as a constant reminder about the active process of memory.
On a fundamental level, the choreography must be committed to memory
both mentally and physically. In one passage, the four dancers (Stoppiello,
plus Danielle Goldman, Michou Szabo, and Sandra Tillett) spun intricate
patterns around one another, as if four people inhabited a revolving
door and each executed turns while the door made revolutions, alternating
directions. (It seems that dance has always been underrated on an
intellectual level, that the sheer skill of memorizing an hour or
two of movement is an astonishing feat.)
On another level, Stoppiello
fed remembered gestures, actions, and little bits of old dances
into the streaming choreography. Her fundamental style is energetic
but relaxed, with soft feet and open hands, and snippets of ballet
vocabulary with high-octane kicks, leaps, and lunges alternating
with more descriptive verses of reflexive or functional movement.
Stoppiello ran through a Tourette's-like phrase -- a blue streak
of dance positioned parallel to the unfurled scroll. In another
section, a pair of dancers, seated on the floor, slid their legs
under the other's, rocked back and forth, and parlayed a childlike
playfulness into full-blown rage. The performers all displayed individual
appeal in addition to internalizing Stoppiello's distinctive vocabulary.
Despite some technical
difficulties with the audio and video feed, Coniglio's score for
cello, violin, and marimba set a dramatic, film noir tone. The music
swelled, sonorous and over-miked, or vaporized us with dream-like
passages and evocative noises. Coniglio designed the "MidiDancer
Sensory System," worn by the dancers, which permitted interaction
between their motions and the feed. The video was projected onto
a backdrop of white screens or shutters with a variety of surface
finishes, a clever and effective alternative to a plain white screen.
Akiko Sato designed the witty costumes, tailored pieces made of
a translucent material that allowed the seams to show through --
in a sense, memories of clothing. Susan Hamburger designed the varied,
at times breathtaking lighting. Performing Coniglio's score live
was the Fireworks Ensemble, featuring Alica Lagger on violin, Julian
Molitz on marimba, and Leigh Stuart on cello.
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