[dance-tech] Re: repertory worlds

  • From: Nick Rothwell <nick@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: dance-tech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 21 Jan 2008 22:35:18 +0000

There are, I suppose, two kinds of repertory: established work which is re-performed by a company, and established work made by one company which is performed by another. But the problem is the same: the requirements to reproduce a technology-based piece are subtle, complicated, short-lived, fragile and, more often than not, proprietary.

This has been a problem in the electronic music field for decades, and is the main reason why there is little or no distinction between composer and performer: the composer builds a personalised environment which would need to be transported intact to the performer.

Pretty much the only context in which there is a separation between composition and performance is in live diffusion of multi-track tape to multi-speaker setups, and this is because the tools involved - multitrack recorders, mixers, speakers - are well-established and generic. And there are repertory musical works for diffusion performance. We are starting to see some generality in software tools, mainly due to niche dominance - the tools are still, by and large, proprietary (I'm thinking of things like MaxMSP and Ableton Live).

Makes me think of Abbey Road studios that apparently has all kinds of old audio playback devices so that works recorded on older mediums can be modernized.

True enough (but for what it's worth, there's a discontinuity at around 1990, where audio equipment moved to proprietary microprocessors and became unserviceable and unmaintainable. Older technology is amenable to a cottage support industry which newer technology is not).

Would be cool if there was a place like that for the D&T world. A place where one could go to rent or borrow an old Powerbook running OS 8 or 9 or a Laserdisc player or VCR or MidiDancer or Sensor Beam or Diem Digital Dance Suit or Matel Power Glove or use a 1.0 version of a particular piece of software. Kind of a working museum.

Agreed. (By the way, does anyone want a Xybernaut wearable computer?)

It would be even cooler if the tools and components were easily maintainable and replaceable. This is one of the benefits of the open source movement - a stack of free (as in libre) software has potential longevity and is not at the mercy of fragile hardware. (Why would one want an old MacOS 8 PowerBook if the software had been kept alive and ported to newer machines? I use the same text editor today that I was using a quarter century ago, although - thankfully - not on the same hardware.)

But, still the bigger question is where is the call to perform these older work? Who wants to see them now?

I think this is an important question.

While choreography can sometimes get obsessed with newness, there is still appeal in older repertory pieces, especially in the context of their age and lineage. So why should there be little call for old dance-tech pieces? I wonder whether a factor might be that their appeal is in technical novelty (with an obviously short shelf-life) rather than artistic content.

I hate to say it but I think the need for a special Dance & Technology genre is over.


We don't have a genre for Dance Where The Dancers Wear Blue, or Dance Where The Lights Are On Side Stands, so why do we have a genre for Dance Where Technology Is Used? Who knows, perhaps Dance/Technology will mature to the stage that the technology is subsumed, and talking about dance with sensors will make as much sense as talking about dance with par cans.

To catch up with Johannes:

case in point: Richard Siegal: ------ did anyone see his concert in New York? i would love to hear some comments and reactions here on our list, do you know his work?

I refuse the register with the NY Times online as a matter of principle, so all I can go off is the video excerpt on Richard's web site. I don't know much about his technology work - when I worked with him it was for "pure" dance - but Richard was one of the principal dancers in Forsythe's KAMMER KAMMER, which dates from (I think) 2000, and was very technology-heavy ... but was never considered or described as a dance technology piece. It was a work of dance theatre. End of.

(When I was working with Michael Klien in Frankfurt back in 2002, sharing a stage with Kammer Kammer in fact, we had a short duet where the choreography was computer mediated using custom software. We went to great pains to completely hide the technology from the audience; if the dance was regarded and appreciated as a choreographic work with no knowledge of the technology, we considered that a result.)

        -- N.

Nick Rothwell / Cassiel.com Limited

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