Photo: © Philipp Wittulsky
created by : Mark Coniglio & Dawn Stoppiello
dramaturgy: Peter C. von Salis
performed by: Dawn Stoppiello, Morgan Cloud, Jennifer (JJ) Kovacevich, Johanna Levy, Travis Steele Sisk, Luca Tong
loopdiver is an hour-long performance work that uses highly complex patterns of repititive movement, music and video to portray the aftermath of an encounter with violence. The viewer is asked to go on a journey that is both dreamlike and maddening as the six performers attempt to escape from their prisons of repetition. The meaning of the materials grows and changes as it appears again and again and again, ultimately challanging us to dive in and break free of our own reptitive and potentially destructive behavior.
The power of loopdiver lies in the choreography. While the music, set, video and lighting are integral parts of the story, the precise execution of the loop structure by the dancers – both in their bodies and in within their psyche – is where the deeper meaning of loopdiver emerges.
LOW-TECH SHOWING / BERLIN, GERMANY / AUGUST 2009
The clip above are excerpts from a low-tech, work-in-progress showing in Berlin in August 2009. The purpose of this work period was to finalize the choreography; so while the set and video projections are not present, it will give you a clear idea about the choreography and music. (To learn more on how the choreography was created and transformed by the imposition of the looping structure, click here.)
The three animated set pieces are crucial to the audience's experience of loopdiver – we strongly encourage you to see and read more about the set below. Because the audience sits on both sides of the stage, these objects intentionally obscure the performers from time to time. In those moments, however, the audience will instead see sihouttes of the live performers or delicate video imagery related to the movement. Every audience member's experience of the work will be unique depending on their viewing position.
The set for loopdiver is an integral and essential part of the performance. Three animated sculptures created by visual artist Colin Kilian serve as both moving architecture and a video projection surfaces. These sculptures also provide a crucial metaphor in the opening moments of the piece, as their initial movement implies the "moment of violence" that launches the piece into action. To see that opening moment, take a look at this video close up of one of the three set pieces during that opening moment.
As you can see in the video, the set turns and expands from a two dimensional surface into a three dimensional one, noticeably seen in the inner, broken glass-like "shards". Importantly, the set is the only element of the piece that does not loop. After the first explosive movement, the set becomes like a clock, slowly closing over the entire duration of the piece to its opening position.
The scrim seen in the two frames of the set piece serves as the projection surface for the delicate video imagery, integrating those images directly into the stage space with the dancers. The video imagery will be completed during our upcoming three week residency at the Lied Center, just prior to the premiere. Click the image below for an excerpt of one section. (Each figure you see appears on one of the set panels, which total six in all.)
The development of loopdiver began with a simple idea: to explore the concept of loops, a structure pervasive in culture since the popularization of the computer. We began by creating a special tool in Mark Coniglio's Isadora software that allowed us to compose highly complex looping structures and impose them on any digitally recorded material, including (but not limited to) digital video files and audio files.
Screenshot of the loop editor in Isadora
After exploring various methods for imposing the loops on the choreography, it became clear that the ultimate approach was to create a five-minute long performance that was complete in its own right, with movement, music, video and theatrical lighting; then, to use the looping tool, transform a videotape of that performance into a 60 minute long choreographic "score" from which we rigorously generated the actual choreography and which our performers realized in their bodies.
The digital materials (in this case, the music) maintain the absolute precision and perfection of the computer, while the learned choreography is necessarily imperfect due to human interpretation. When placed together on stage, we see the performers in a constant struggle to adapt to an externally imposed machine rhythm.
To make this process clear, click the image below to view a 15 second excerpt from the unlooped, five-minute long "base material" without the set or video elements..
Now, click the image below to see to see the same section after having imposed the looping structure in Isadora. (The annotation at the bottom of the frame were a reference for the dancers during the learning process.)
This is how resulting choreography and music appeared during a low-tech, work-in-progress showing in Berlin in August 2009.
loopdiver was commissioned by the Lied Center for Performing Arts in Lincoln, Nebraska. This project is made possible in part by a grant from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters Creative Campus Innovations Grant Program, a component of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln provided a seed grant. Support is also provided by Hixson-Lied Endowment Fund, Woods Charitable Fund, Cooper Foundation and the Lincoln Community Foundation.
The scope of the two year project extended far beyond the creation of the performance work itself, including numerous local partners. For example, our collaboration with the Madonna Research Hospital, in which Troika Ranch's movement sensing technologies were used to help rehabilitate patients whose bodies had been disabled by trauma. A summary of our Creative Campus project can be seen by clicking HERE