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Arts Festival Review: Glow

Arts Festival Review: Glow

Review by Lyndon Hood

Chunky Move
7 March at 6, 7 & 8pm
8 & 9 March at 3, 4, 5 & 6pm
30 minutes
Renouf Foyer, Michael Fowler Centre

Glow is one of two pieces (along with Children's Cheering Carpet) at the Arts Festival this weekend exporing the performance possibilities of interactive video projection. Here, a single, pale-costumed a dancer moves on white mat, her movements followed in various ways by patterns of light from a video projector overhead.

The pallette is radically restricted - whiteness where the light shines and the blackness of shadow where it does not. The variation comes mostly from the many, very different, modes in which the light responds to the dancer, reacting directly and sometimes indirectly (but never independently) to her movments.

Early on a single line of brightness outlines her body with two lines like crosshairs across the stage intersecting at her midpoint, or a jagged halo of straight lines map along the same curve of her outline. Or later, parallel lines stream over or past her or she leaves a fading series of fading geometric outlines across the stage that are unfortunately reminiscent of an old-school screensaver.

The light responds rapidly to the movements of the dancer, and the dancer's movements are adapted to make use of the light, as when she shuffles along the ground holding a single curled, preserving the form of her glowing outline while moving it, or when she lies on the floor and streches her limbs out, playing with a similar outline like a huge rubber band. Sometimes she seems to play with it in a improvisational way, making the interactivity complete.

The dancer spends a lot of time on the floor (many of the functions the system uses to follow her only really work that way). The seating, placed all around the rectangular performance space, is raised to provide a better view of that action.

It's fair to say we are mostly watching the light, as well as trying to work out the details of the interactivity at any particular moment. But that's not for lack of interest in the performer. Scattered among more 'dancerly' movement are strange moments as she grimaces or shivers, or cuts across the abstract soundscape with tight squeals or incomprehensible shouts.

Perhaps if we were less fascinated by the technological spectacle, we might looks for some broader meaning there, but to me Glow read as a portfolio piece exploring some, but by no means all, of the possibilites or some interesting new technology.

That said, there were moments: close to the end the dancer is trailed by blackness – disturbing in itself when up until then the main patterns had been white on black. Blobs or darkness left in her trail coalesce and plunge into her shadow with a jarring audio crescendo*, she writhes on the floor, the only unlit thing in a glowing white space, shadow chasing fractionally behind her flailing limbs. It was freaky. Very horror movie – in a good way – and perhaps a cue to applications of the technology toward the legitimate theatre end of the performance spectrum.

The programme describes Glow as an "illuminating choreographic essay". The word 'essay' seems appropriate to an exploration of possibilities that seems to be driven more by the technology than anything else. While it was interesting to see what can be done these days, for me the 'illumination' was restricted to literal light.


* There was a box of earplugs available outside the entrance. While we are assured to two performances are exactly the same, I didn't noticed and particularly lound noises extending beyond a fraction of a second.

Glow on the Arts Festival website (includes video)
Scoop full coverage: Arts Festival 2008

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