The term ‘multimedia’ had become increasingly common where dance is concerned and whilst some may think the dance profession remains in the dark ages compared to other industries which take advantage of technological advances, the use of technology in dance performance is on the up.
So what exactly do we mean by ‘multimedia’ when it comes to dance?
In the late nineteenth century electric stage lighting was considered revolutionary technology and Loie Fuller (1862-1928), was one of the first modern dancers to experiment with its possibilities. Fuller was regarded as a pioneer in working with multimedia, creating kaleidoscope effects by directing hundreds of lights onto cloths and using film in some cases.
Today, the use of sophisticated lighting in dance performance is the norm and technological advances have brought a new kind of multimedia. From virtual dancers to entire stage settings created using computer graphics that interact with the dancers on stage, the scope of possibilities seems endless.
In Merce Cunningham’s Biped(1999), company dancers share the performance space with virtual 3-D ‘dancers’ which are larger than life computer generated models of the dancers themselves. The choreographic sequences of both the virtual and real dancers are governed by chance in true Cunningham style.
Darshan Singh Buller created Eng-er-land for Phoenix Dance Theatre in collaboration with multimedia experts at KMA. A computer generated city is projected onto the stage which responds to and interacts with the dancer’s movement. With music by Blessed and costumes by Emma Louise Hopkinson the complete package is the epitomy of multimedia dance.
One might ask why has multimedia become so popular in dance? Is it because modern choreographers are running out of ideas for original choreography to convey meaning and conjure imagery or is it because dance as a profession is striving to keep up with the times and therefore keep audiences interested?
New York City’s DD Dorvillier & Human Future Dance Corps explain that they can create works that communicate a more complicated idea or narrative with the added multimedia aspects. They believe that many of their productions could not have been created using pure movement alone.
Troika Ranch use multimedia to add dimensions to the performance that audience members may have never experienced before, such as projecting a live film of the dance from a bird’s eye view of the stage or from the dancer’s point of view by attaching a small camera to one of the performers. This enables the viewer to see a part of the movement that might not be possible by looking with the naked eye and furthermore see the two view points simultaneously.
In Australian Dance Theatre’s Held, moments that pass too quickly to be captured by the eye are captured instead by camera as the dancers perform, and seconds later the images appear on two large screens on the stage. This kind of experimentation increases the possibilities for dance and how people see dance. As dance embraces new technologies, who knows what we will be going to the theatre to watch in ten years time.