RE: dance /butter2; Re: New web dance

Isabel Valverde (
Wed, 21 Jul 1999 16:51:22 -0700

viva list,
>from Paul Keizer:
>Merce Cunningham's newest dance, BIPEP

>BIPED will have its New York premiere on July 21 and 24 at the New York
State Theater during the Lincoln Center Festival. BIPED is a collaboration
with composer Gavin Brayars and digital artists Paul Kaiser and Shelley
Eshkar. The decor for BIPED features the striking images of "hand-drawn"
virtual dancers enveloping the stage, projected against a huge scrim
covering the front of the stage.

no wonder people get confused...

>from Mary-Lou
>has anyone seen Merce Cunningham's Biped? I would love to know what people

as the Cunningham company is finally premiering Biped today, and since
nobody in the list seams to have seen its world premiere at the Zellerbach
Hall, Berkeley past May ....?, I can't help but say something about it.
I went to a previous demonstration of the hand-drawn project about a year
ago, and saw a 3D excerpt of BIPED at IDAT99. I was expecting some more
competition between the real and virtual dancers(a la Troika Ranch), for
the hand-drawn characters previewed seemed quite powerful by themselves.
Instead was surprisingly confronted with mostly abstract animated stage
design forms (decor?) which made so much sense considering Cunningham's
prolonged collaborations with Raushenberg and other visual artists, besides
of course Cage and other composers in the musical/sound component. Yes,
there were also virtual dancers, but they would come once in a while for a
short time, appearing and disappearing behind moving colums, in a almost
humorous way though mostly doing the same steps you saw the real dancer do
early. throughout the piece you see a series of bits and pieces of possible
development of features within the animation, probably for later.
As the piece had a lot of live dancers, which as the virtual will
interestingly appear and disappear back stage blurring the line between the
real/virtual (remember a discussion on what is virtual and agree that the
virtual is also real), you could observe the choreography and realise that
Cunningham's movement vocabulary in general evolves between two poles as:
the neoclassical balletic tradition which seams to be the one in which the
dancers seem to have pleasure performing, and the unnatural, created as
well with lifeforms using chance methods, working with isolation of body
parts in difficult balances, etc, which makes the best dancers look like
apprendices. I remember in the demonstration Cunningham or Keizer talking
about how hard it was for the dancers to learn and perform in a short
period of time the lifeform movement sequences for the motion capture
studio. Very intellectual work...

> from Johannes:
>I think that an understanding of collaboration in technologically
>interfaced work (within and beyond university departments such as dance or
>theatre or music) between artists and practitioners outside the more
>narrow-defined professional category of "choreography" are vital for our
>dance-technology field,

Hi Johannes. I'm glad you brought up the interdisciplinary characteristic
of d&t work. But isn't it what dance has always been? At least that's one
important reason why i choose it as my art form.
But that's also true that due to less resources, or a certain field
isolation choreographers tend to do all by themselves. In my part i'm also
very much into moving and computing, though that doesn't stop any possible
collaboration. The more you know the better idea you have of what it will
suit your idea/concepts. Thus i see choreographers as interdisciplinary
artists, and dance as an interdisciplinary artform.

> from Johannes:
>and our experiences and experiments (whether they have
>pixels or not) need also be related to curators, producers and collectors
>ZKM, ars electronica, media art festivals etc), so that our visions and needs
>are understood. Experimental dance-tech, for example, may need to have
>particular conditions for its reception that may not be adequately
>addressed at
>SIGGRAPH, in the same way in which the "intelligent stage" (IDAT99, ASU)
>travel and is fixed as a blackbox theatre and a particular way of seeing the
Yes, we need to bring more dance out of its enclosed closet/the theater, or
change it into more polivalent/interdisciplinary venues where all kinds of
art can be perceived and experienced. I'm tied of the old hierarchy between

>from Nick:
>The real issue is form versus quality-of-art.
Sim, at IDAT this was a common realisation. Its not the digital/interactive
concept and retoric that by it self makes a good work, but how it's
developed in terms of general content, form and aesthetic issues.

>We see announcements of performances
>using such-and-such a technology in a new dance piece, without mention
>of the artistic intent or meaning of the piece itself.
Isn't this the case of BIPED? Ok, we know that Merce intentionally doesn't
describes his pieces besides the collaborations envolved. But, still, how
many people know what they are really about?


~ Isabel Valverde ~
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