Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company
Residency: April to July 2021
This residency presented an opportunity for the Third Space Network (3SN) to introduce the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company to techniques in online dance/music performance. It was also an opportunity to bring together Los Angeles tenor and performance artist Charles Lane, with dancer and choreographer Daniel Charon, artistic director of the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company in Salt Lake City, to collaborate on a new online performance project Black|White, testing the possibilities of Internet theatre. The collaborators were interested in creating a new work that involved the two artists performing live from their home studios with green screen installations, and to delve into the narrative and performative possibilities of the geographical distance between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City.
“Being inside of my apartment in downtown LA surrounded by all this technology it was hard to get a sense of theatre at the beginning, but eventually through the process and entire performance I completely forgot that I was in my apartment studio and it really did feel like Daniel and I shared the same stage and that was a remarkable and rewarding feeling and experience for me.”
The Black|White residency project was a response to the crises of pandemic isolation and racial polarization in the aftermath of COVID-19. The collaborators wanted to explore distance and separation through the medium of the Internet as an environment to situate two performers: one Black, one White, one a singer, the other a dancer, two individuals who must negotiate distant worlds, distant neighbourhoods, distant lives, and different skin. A reconciliation through the language of image, music, rhythm, collage, and movement, co-mingled in the immaterial space of the Network.
Techniques and solutions
Situating a remote dancer and singer in virtual sets, compositing their live movement, voices, and actions in virtual environments, all in real-time, requires a great deal of technical coordination, automation, and control to achieve a stable and fluid production. For this residency, every subtle change in set, movement, video, and sound was precisely cued-in with a software design controlled by MIDI commands. Ableton Live software, while typically used for musical composition and recording, provided for the coordination of cues and timing for all the various audio-visual elements, including: chroma keying, mattes, silhouettes, video material and sound levels, etc.
Reflections and outcomes
The residency was initially conceived to target two parallel agendas: To work collaboratively on a creative expression with and by remote performers, and to investigate the capabilities and limitations of networked performance given the technology available to the Third Space Network. The final public workshop/performance of Black|White, presented by the Third Space Network and the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company on July 15th, was broadcast via Crowdcast, the streaming platform for 3SN events. Black|White was one of the most ambitious and technically complex works they had ever mounted. Like their previous productions, the project focused on political activism and cutting-edge technical and theatrical experimentation.
Residency facilitated by project partners Third Space Network (3SN)