ALEXANDER WHITLEY, posthuman condition of the dance performance, Katažyna Jankovska, δημοσίευση CLOT Magazine [17/11/2022]Marilena Pateraki
What is choreography like when your partner is software? We usually think of moving human bodies when we think of live dance performances. Human actors occupy the centre of the frame, while technologies remain at the periphery of attention. Alexander Whitley, the London-based choreographer and artistic director of Alexander Whitley Dance Company, presents challenges to the conventional approaches to stage performance. By incorporating cutting-edge technologies such as motion capture technology and interactive projections, Alexander’s projects stand in contrast to the traditional human-centred understanding of choreography. Over the years, Alexander has developed an interdisciplinary approach to dance-making, exploring the posthuman condition and posthuman paradigms of dance.
His recent experimental work Anti-Body (recently presented at Sadler’s Wells in London) explores the biological form of the human body through a system of interactive technology. The sensors incorporated in the costumes of the dancers enable the choreography to drive a system of motion-responsive visuals created by Uncharted Limbo Collective and generate real-time projections. The piece is accompanied by an electrifying score composed by 2021 Mercury Prize nominee Hannah Peel and music producer Kincaid.
His previous projects, such as Overflow, commissioned by Sadler’s Wells, incorporates kinetic light sculptures and biometric masks. While this experimental approach requires finding a balance between choreography and visual effects created by digital technology, it also redefines the hierarchy of perceptual importance. Since technology is a performing element playing an equal part in stage performance, Alexander’s projects reject hierarchical ordering and reject the conventional omnipotent role of the choreographer in favour of a more collaborative relationship between different actors involved in developing the work.
Although co-dependency and restrictions assigned by digital technologies impose a certain degree of limitations on the development of choreography, Alexander demonstrates the changing understanding of the role of technology in stage performance and the creative possibilities that emerge from it.
During the lockdown, Alexander’s choreography also re-materialised online. Future Rites is a multi-user virtual reality dance experience that enables the audience to take part in the dance performance and explore the new possibilities of dance creation opened by digital technologies. Although the integration of technologies into traditional practices often provokes the fear of losing the cherished body in dance performances, Alexander sees it as a complementary element rather than a substitute for traditional dance. It allows him to explore what the art form of dance is and what it can be. Does dance necessarily have to involve humans in the first place?
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