Initially, the Phoenix Dance Theatre team wanted to experiment with alterative viewpoints that are not usually possible to achieve in live stage settings. They chose images of holes in the ground, with four scenographic designs representing different types of spaces. The dancers positioned cameras above their heads pointing down at green screens spread on the floor. This provided a vertical perspective so that the dancers could appear inside the hole or on the ground above the hole. In later sessions, the cameras were positioned in front of the dancers with the green screens behind them, sometimes with furniture under the green screens so that the dancer could appear to be sitting on chairs or climbing on items within the digital scenography. Digital scenography for these sessions included a horizontal hole in the ground, a woodland scene, a Mad Hatter’s tea party in the forest, and a country road at night. Different kinds of interactions were explored in each of these contexts.
Techniques and solutions
The remote dancers each used MacBook computers, connecting to their routers by an ethernet cable, in the most successful cases. They were calling via Skype for the initial sessions, and then via the Google Chrome browser for the subsequent sessions with LiveToAir and vMix. The dancers were supplied with green-screen materials, stands, LED video lights and webcams, along with installation set-up diagrams for their home location. To ensure they all had near-identical sets to collaborate from. It was also suggested that they use additional TV outputs to monitor their interactions and movement remotely.
Reflections and outcomes
It was useful to be reminded in this residency that it takes time to become accustomed to working with and through a digital image of one’s body. Unfortunately, the length of the residency (5 x 1-hour sessions) meant that the dancers were only just starting to become accustomed to linking their physical bodies with their images in the digital space. Longer sessions would have enabled a stronger sense of embodied connection between physical and digital bodies, allowing the dancers to inhabit digital space more readily.