sophie hansen (
Tue, 08 Sep 1998 02:02:08 -0700

Dear List,

I have been following the debate about dance and technology in process/performance with interest and having finally tracked down the copy I was looking for, now attach an extract from a recent interview with Wayne McGregor regarding the use of technology in The Millennarium- to hopefully clear up some of the issues which have been raised in relation to the way the press wrote about this production, as opposed to the way it was viewed within the company.

Here goes; comments eagerly awaited.....

In the Millenarium I wasn't using the technology like a shopping list, saying; "OK, the technology does this and I want to make a piece using that." I was attempting to work with a more digital aesthetic, to recreate an environment, an ecology of space, which worked with the idea of a degenerating or electronic image, but with a physical reality in a live space. I was interested in how I could work with a physical vocabulary which, in some way, jumped from a very naturalistic movement vocabulary to almost computer generated, cyborg-like movements. So those ideas were very much there at the beginning of the rehearsal process.

For The Millenarium I was working at a notion of extremity; how far could I push the body? How could I make a disfunctional movement vocabulary look at certain times very fluid? How could I make it ricochet through the body and what were those movement pathways? How could we make that disfunctional movement really live? Could I generate a hybrid form of naturalistic, ie humanistic, almost gestural movement, and very digital movement? By digital, I mean movement that seems to blip through the body, is almost sampled, very rapid fire. And then there are moments of very organic movement which feels quite
animalistic. I am searching to find that language through giving material directly to the dancers, working in improvisation, always based around an idea.

The stimulus which I give my dancers might be some text, it might be something more kinetic, like a video or something which is very alive technologically. It might be more conceptual. For example, one of the improvisations was about this disconnection between
the brain and the body, thinking about the body as a container for space
and replacing organs in the body with different organs. If we had a choice about which organs we would replace, what would our order of priority be? How could that create an architecture for improvisation? So the language became embedded with all these
principles to do with technology. The technology isn't an adjunct nor is it just about structuring; it actually informs the choreography from the beginning. You see that it's a technological language rather than just a language which has been plonked into a technological environment.

With The Millenarium we didn't have all the technological resources we'd envisaged at the beginning of the process. I desperately wanted to make sure that the technological elements were integrated from the very beginning of the piece but because the money came late, the technology became a distant collaborator. It was like having a composer in a different country and negotiating what the roles would be - and although that threw up very exciting challenges, it didn't provide enough integration into the whole piece. That had a big effect on how we structured The Millenarium. I had to be clear about what the dance content was and how the visual components would work with a dance structure in a projected way. I had to decide in advance how that would work because we only had two weeks of technical time at that stage and couldn't really make massive changes. So the structure was determined earlier than ideal and was lead by the dance. I would have preferred to work with the tw!
o together to find new structure and new ways of presenting that material. That's a great learning curve. It pushed me to really focus back on the vocabulary in digital terms. How could I think about movement in negative space without actually providing a negative space? How could that movement vocabulary make perspective look different?

The score was another challenge as I wanted the music to live in its own right with the dancers providing the rhythmic texture of the piece. This is often hard to get right in a very long production. How could you have a dominant score which is in some way very hypnotic and lulls you into a false sense of sound, and at the same time have your dancers fighting against that with a rhythmic texture which is very different? What would that tension be? How long
could we sustain that sort of energy and how did that work? The graphic element also provided an external rhythmic structure, so in this case it wasn't necessarily the music that always textured the rhythm but often the graphics and the kinetics of the movement together.

I learned a lot from The Millennarium and even though I wasn't completely happy about the technological interaction I am really aware that it was the beginning of a longer journey. This is the first piece in a series over the next three years. There are so many questions to research. The audience response has been fascinating, particularly in relation to the seventy minute duration and the challenge of engaging people in that type of sound ecology for so long. The feedback told us that people had been really inspired and dialogue with the audience had been really important, even though it was not always completely positive and often very critical. But the actual engagement of talking about the issues and how the piece was working, provided me with another kick start.

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