November 19, 2014
By Danielle Georgiou
SMU's Meadows School of the Arts dance program is known for putting on really good shows. The college's dance program not only teaches its students form and choreography, it also brings in celebrated guest artists, whose work challenges both the students and any outsiders who can weave their way through the Owens Art Center to the Hope Theatre for a performance. The 2014 fall dance concert, which takes place this week, is no different, presenting a packed evening of dance that includes two world premieres.
The first comes from faculty member Christopher Dolder. Here, Hermann Rorschach meets M.C. Escher. "Handle" is an experiment with the interplay of movement and media that explores how people perceive identity, dimensions, and matter by manipulating the physical properties that audiences often assume are present. But assumptions are dangerous and Dolder wants to stress that. Through the use of video projection, motion sensing, permeable walls, and costumes with actual handles sewn in, Dolder is creating an environment that messes with our senses. Subject will become objects, vertical will become horizontal, and whatever we assume is physical might just be an illusion.
A former Martha Graham Dance Company soloist, Dolder is an expert in dance kinesiology (which according to Google, is the study of the human body in motion, as it relates to dance). He's currently researching new forms of physical data capture in collaboration with the Meadows School's Center of Creative Computation. Read: Dolder has moves offstage too. "Handle" is an extension of that work.
"I have been contemplating this piece for about 10 years. I have always been fascinated with how we as humans physically contact objects and other humans," Dolder says. "The root of the word itself points towards our many uses of the 'hand' from tactile information gatherer, to overt manipulator. How do we handle our belongings, our loved ones, our pets? Dissecting the title further, how do we handle situations, concepts, emotions?"
Additionally, "Handle" explores how research and theories on physical data capture can extend past dance. It is all about the body and how our muscles and our skeletons coexist.
"This project is timely in that it will rely heavily on high performance computing and SMU recently acquired a high performance computer from the Navy," says Dolder. "Eventually students will be able to experiment with their own movement vocabulary in my Physical Data Capture Lab, record the movements, import this physical data into a software application and then create a personalized musculo-skeletal-avatar (MSA) in virtual space."
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