Dance Massive 2011
Merlyn Theatre, The CUB Malthouse
11 – 20 March 2011
In the sell-out, international sensations of GLOW and Mortal Engine, Chunky Move transcended the limits of earthly form by immersing dancers in an illusory world of motion tracking and projection technology. In Connected, this dynamic is flipped on its back and digital technology is side-stepped in favour of pure mechanics.
Teaming up with Californian artist, Reuben Margolin, Gideon Obarzanek animates both the body and the machine through physical connection between the dancersand Margolin’s purpose-built, kinetic sculpture.
Reuben’s startlingly live sculptural works – constructed from wood, re-cycled plastic, paper and steel – transcend their concrete forms once set into motion, appearing as natural waveforms in a weightless kinetic flow. Suspended by hundreds of fine strings receiving information from multiple camshafts and wheels, his sculptures reveal in articulate detail the impulses of what they are coupled to. In Connected, it is people – athletic and agile dancers’ bodies twisting and hurtling through space, as well as people in recognisable situations.
Beginning with simple movements and hundreds of tiny pieces, the dancers build their performance while they construct the sculpture in real time. During the performance, these basic elements and simple physical connections quickly evolve into complex structures
All gods are homemade, and it is we who pull their strings, and so, give them the power to pull ours. (Aldous Huxley).
“..Mathematically precise and mesmerisingly beautiful.” THE AGE
“..An engrossing creation, intensely and rewardingly collaborative, passionately danced to exacting choreography.” REALTIME
DIRECTOR & CHOREOGRAPHER: Gideon Obarzanek
SCULPTURE: Reuben Margolin
COMPOSERS: Oren Ambarchi & Robin Fox
LIGHTING DESIGNER: Benjamin Cisterne
COSTUME DESIGNER: Anna Cordingley
PERFORMERS: Sara Black, Stephanie Lake, Alisdair Macindoe, Ross McCormack, Marnie Palomares, Harriet Ritchie, Joseph Simons
DURATION 60 mins (no interval)
READ THE MEDIA RESPONSE
CONNECTED HIGHLIGHTS FOOTAGE
A NOTE FROM GIDEON OBARZANEK
I was fortunate to meet Reuben Margolin in October, 2009 in Maine USA, where we were both invited to speak at PopTech, a conference focusing on social change through current innovations in science, art and economics. There, I witnessed Reuben’s various sculpture machines made of wood, recycled plastic and steel transcend their concrete forms once they were set into motion and appear as waveforms in nature – a weightless kinetic flow. This was not dissimilar to the changeability of a dancer from a person to a moving figure when performing on stage. We were immediately drawn to each other’s work and began discussing possibilities for future collaboration. I have an interest in combining dance with other art forms and the alternative perceptions that these interactions can reveal. In previous works such as GLOW and Mortal Engine it has been through the video graphics generated by the movements of the dancers and then projected back onto and around their bodies. Here in Connected this relationship continues, but with early mechanical technology – intricately linked simple materials such as string, paper and wood literally connected to the dancers by fine strings. It’s not just the translation of human movement into other visual and kinetic forms that interests me, but more a fundamental relationship between our environment and us.
Until Connected, Reuben’s sculptures have existed as installations in galleries in a perpetual but constant state. While this gives his constellation-like objects a uniquely mesmerising quality, the biggest challenge in this project was to find a relationship between dancers and sculpture that could develop as a time arc within a performance event rather than a fixed singular connection. During the period I visited Reuben’s workshop in Berkeley California I also excitedly pitched our new creative partnership with the director of a highly prominent theatre in Paris. After a pause big enough to drive a French car through (stylishly compact yet surprisingly roomy), the director remarked, “I do not understand why this is a performance for the stage and not an installation for a gallery?” My response should have been, “The stage begins as an imaginary space of the artist’s mind, where we build the work and construct the sculpture. Once complete however, the stage becomes a gallery space and we see things very differently.” But I didn’t say that. I didn’t know it yet and just sat there, stumbling for an answer.
Interestingly, the common language between choreographing a dance and Reuben building his sculptures is maths. The rapid-fire number sequences reeled off by the dancers in the execution of quick and complex movement phrases are not dissimilar to the dizzying number-charts Reuben calculates and relies upon for precise weight, friction and string length calibrations. Similar to constructing the sculpture, we thought about the dance growing and coming together from small pieces, erratic fragments fusing into flowing symmetrical forms. This required a different type of maths to the Euclidean geometry and permutations and combinations we had been more commonly working with in the dance studio and we turned our attention to chaos: recursions, patterns inside of patterns, self-similarities – symmetry across scale. Small crystal-shapes made with one’s fingers extended out with other dancers’ bodies into kaleidoscopic mandalas. Strange attractors and stable chaos influenced various copying tasks and competitive games. Sensitive dependence on initial conditions (more commonly known as ‘the butterfly effect’) flung bodies across the stage, all dramatically affected by tiny internal movements of another single dancer. This kind of mathematical influence resulted in choreography resembling states of synthesis and fragmentation, flow and turbulence – a geometry of nature.
Connected is not just a collaboration between a sculptor and a choreographer, it has been an extraordinary group effort. I am deeply grateful to Rob, Oren, Ben and Anna for their inspiration and creativity, my tech staff for making all our demanding explorations possible and the committed support from all the Chunky team. And finally, not only are all the dancers extraordinary performers but they have also created all of the work with me. Thank you.
Connected was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and additional funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Boeing Company Charitable Trust.
Photos: Jeff Busby
CONNECTED PRODUCTION IMAGES