Scott deLahunta (sdela@ahk.nl)
Wed, 24 Dec 1997 08:50:53 +0100

Who has seen Pôles -- search altavista on [+poles +dance +virtual] ?? There
is a lot of press and I'm intrigued. Premiere was June 1996 in Ontario.
Since then the piece has splashed its way around Canada and the USA (Atlanta
Arts Festival this last September). European premiere is in Lisbon next
August at World Expo 1998. Statements in the press include: a 'new form of
dance', VR as a 'new avenue for theater', the integration of the 'real with
the unreal', the 'technology is invisible', 'using technology to enhance
human emotions', etc. Also, a little interesting comment (unverified) that
because the group could not afford to 'copyright' the technology, they won't
let anyone observe their setup. Hmmm... from what I could gather, they are
probably being most protective of the technology involved in Michel
Lemieux's 'holographic' projections of bodies on stage. Michel Lemieux and
company call their projects "4-d" and there is a website

So... I have not seen this performance, but by all accounts, the work is a
quite a piece of illusional wizardry involving projections and live
performers -- with great difficulty telling which is which sometimes. From
the descriptions, the 'story' sounds to be rather simple... with classic
oppositions between 'heaven and earth', for example, but everyone remarks on
the transcendent spectacular effects. The words 'magic' and 'alchemy' are
used frequently (but no mention of fellow theater magician canadian Robert
Lepage who uses technology where and when necessary to advance multiple
narratives running through his work. I'm reminded of 'needles and opium' and
the effective integration of film projection with live performer).

Projection and live performers has been occurring off and on in scenographic
practices in theater and dance for decades. But when and where does the
concept of the 'virtual reality' and 'dance' start to emerge? in what forms?
when does illusion begin to overlap with concepts of immersion and
interactivity. what is the tradition/ the history of this 'new' avenue for
dance and theater. Should we be 'looking back' at Yacov Sharir's *Dancing
with the Virtual Dervish*, one of the first 'dance' projects claiming to
"feature virtual reality as a centerpiece?" This work was a result of a 1992
fellowship from the Banff Centre for the Arts. Michael Montanaro's 1995
piece *Time in the Eye of the Needle*... is another which operates on a
'virtual stage environment' and there are some details on The Institute for
Studies in the Arts, Arizona State, website
(http://toad.asu.edu/isa/ce/imhp/arc/time.html). What about immersive
'virtual' environments such as Brenda Laurel's "placeholder", or the ongoing
work of the Institute for the Exploration of Virtual Realities, U. of
Kansas... utilizing special stereoscopic eyeware for the audience.

I have added a few articles to the 'dance and technology zone' *critical
theory* section. One is David Rodger's aptly titled (for advancing my ideas
here) online article "Sensing Motions: Defining a 'Tradition' in Interactive
Music Performance". The others are a couple of interviews with Yacov Sharir
and a short article written by Diana Gromala and Yacov in connection to
their 'virtual dervish' project.

Increasingly, I am interested in crossing out the word NEW in relationship
to media and technology. One way of doing this is to situate technology on
an evolutionary continuum, but not necessarily a linear one. Rather... to
place work such as Pôles in the context of a matrix, both cultural and
historical, of activity which mediates against the appearance of events as
uniquely 'singular'. Granted, the reviews/ critiques placed on the website
for Pôles (http://www.odyssee.net/~pps/poles.franc.html) are there as public
promotions of the work -- and we all understand the effectiveness of the
concept of 'new' as something our consumer culture audiences are willing to
get off the couch to come and see. But, I see no special value in keeping up
the pretense amongst ourselves.


I would be curious to hear from anyone on the list if they have seen Poles
and/ or can offer some comments on the production.

Conference on *Arts Education ? New Media*
12-13 December 1997 in Amsterdam
Scott deLahunta and Susan Rethorst
Writing Research Associates, NL
Sarphatipark 26-3, 1072 PB Amsterdam, NL
tel: +31 (0)20 662 1736
fax: +31 (0)20 470 1558
email: sdela@ahk.nl
http://huizen.dds.nl/~sdela/wra (WRITING RESEARCH ASSOCIATES)
http://www.art.net/~dtz (DANCE AND TECHNOLOGY ZONE )