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dancing at the interface

erin brannigan in barcelona for iDN


Se Fondre Se Fondre
NURIA FONT, THE FORCE BEHIND IDN FESTIVAL IN BARCELONA, HAS PLAYED AN ACTIVE PART IN DEVELOPING THE PROFILE OF DANCE AND MEDIA OVER THE PAST DECADE OR SO, CURATING PROGRAMS THAT SHOWCASE THE MORE EXPERIMENTAL WORK IN THE FIELD FROM SHORT FILMS TO INTERACTIVE INSTALLATIONS AND PERFORMANCE. AFTER SOME LOGISTICAL PROBLEMS THAT PUT HER ANNUAL EVENT ON HOLD, FONT WAS BACK THIS YEAR WITH A NEW ORGANISATION, NU2, WORKING WITH AN AUSTRALIAN BASED IN BARCELONA, NURIA RODRIGUEZ.

The festival was split into 3 parts: Enscenes Interactive, a program of stage works “that generate a dialogue between choreography, staging, performers and digital tools”; VideoDansa Barcelona, an international dancefilm competition; and Installations where the body “becomes the common ground between dance and the visual arts.” The expansion of dance screen festivals to encompass related work in the visual arts and performance is clearly the next step in bringing screen culture into a novel relationship with dance communities and audiences. As screen culture develops, so too must these festivals if they are to accurately reflect the interface between the moving image, the body and performance.

Recently, there has been a new level of investment in the work being done at the interface between dance, the screen arts and visual arts through initiatives such as the Arts Council of England’s CAPTURE program and organisations such as FORMA (UK), KKM (Germany), The Wellcome Trust (UK) and EMPAC (NY), and increasing opportunities for presentation in galleries as well as venues like Sadler’s Wells Theatre (UK) and specialist events such as Monaco Dance Forum. And the use of new media in dance performance seems to be finally coming of age, apparently nowhere more so than here in Australia. The jury for the competition, of which I was a member, were involved in an open forum where many of these issues were discussed, along with the state of the art of dancefilm production specifically and the network of supporting organisations worldwide.

As a model for an expanded dance and media event, iDN was ambitious. The performance program included 4 works, one being a double-bill. Apparition by Austrian Klaus Obermaier was an empty display of technology with projections of geometric patterns onto a screen at the back of the stage contrasting with images projected on two dancers downstage who functioned as small moving screens. The effect was as dazzling as fireworks and as void of meaning, especially toward the end where tiny dots of light filled the screen and bounced off the bodies performing banal gymnastic choreography. Returning to Australia to see Chunky Move’s excellent Glow, which used similar technology to much greater effect, certainly put Obermaier’s work in its place. Para_site by K.Danse in France was a monotonous demonstration of interaction between a sensor laden dancer and sound and image. Surrounded by multiple small screens, the dancer’s movement suggested struggle and frustration, with little variation for performer or audience.

T.P.O. Company from Italy, seen at Melbourne Festival last year, presented Il Giardino Giapponese, an interactive performance for children and adults. Based on a Japanese fairytale, the performance begins with the story before we are moved to a large touchscreen mat where the performers act out the journey in the tale before inviting audience members to participate. The ease of the interface and the performers matching of tasks to age-appropriate children created a smooth and absorbing experience, not least of all for a passive spectator observing the tentative, quick and curious immersion of the kids in the virtual environment.

Font’s own Arbraçada, created with collaborators, was presented as the first half of a double bill with Hiroaki Umeda’s While Going to a Condition. Arbraçada featured a solo dancer moving in a fluid and low-key way through a ‘forest’ of papery sculptures in the shape of bustled Victorian skirts. At times she stops and moves her arms only, at one stage with her waist perfectly matched to a ‘skirt’, a match that would alter with each audience member’s perspective. A curved screen behind the dancer is then filled with the image of a forest, a point-of-view shot that shifts to take in symmetrical rows of trees planted for logging. The dancers’ actions appear on the screen/in the forest like a ghosting effect, but the technology jars with the serenity of the performance and landscape, seeming out-of-step. Umeda’s solo performance is a slow build, beginning with a still dancer onstage, a minimal electronic score and bold black and white rear-projected graphics, and climaxing with the dancer frozen in a lunge, face to the sky, with a blinding strobe and ear-splitting white noise. Umeda’s dance-style combines the control of Japanese dance techniques with the sharpness and musicality of hip-hop. (A video re-work of this solo, Montevideoaki, was screened at ReelDance 2006.) The simple, striking and perfectly synched visuals and sound provide a perfect backdrop for this riveting performer.

For the international dancefilm competition, VideoDansa, 77 films were shortlisted by the festival organisers from submissions and nearly twice as many screened continuously throughout the event in a cinema and on monitors. An international jury of five then selected around nine films from which the winner and special mention were selected. The winner of 6,000 euros was Se Fondre by Belgian filmmaker Antonin de Bemels. This half-hour film is a progression of de Bemels’ investigation into the obscuring of body parts through repetitive movement and rapid editing, placing these moments of corporeal misbehaviour into a narrative context. The triangle of characters in the film is trapped by an immobility that echoes their thwarted attempts at communication.

Miranda Pennell (UK) was awarded a special mention for You Made me Love You [RT77, p35], in which a class of young dancers follow the gaze of a camera at close range as it shifts randomly, as the sound of shuffling feet accelerates and slows with the gliding frame. Other finalists included ReelDance 2006 People’s Choice winner, Break (Shona McCullagh, Australia), ReelDance 2006 winner, Nascent (Gina Czarnecki, ADT, Australia) and shortlisted films Swift (Margie Medlin, Ros Warby, Australia), Soma Songs and Seismos (Daniel Belton, New Zealand), Once in a Blue Moon and Will Time Tell? (Sue Healey, Australia) and Pod (Narelle Benjamin and Samuel James Australia).

This festival was inspiring in its vision and scope and the international award for dancefilm with a cash prize is an exciting addition to the numerous awards worldwide that now provide support for artists in the field. Once it has had time to settle, NU2 will no doubt continue to help define a still nascent but growing field of practice and, in the process, help to bring recognition to artists bridging disciplines.


iDN Imatge Dansa i Nous mitjans; Caixa Forum and Mercat de les Flors, Barcelona, March 1-4

RealTime issue #78 April-May 2007 pg. 32

© Erin Brannigan; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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