Dance: The Most Collaborative of All the Performing Arts?

The Spring 2010 season at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago featured performances by choreographers who have been working with various new technologies and scientific ideas in the research, development and presentation of their work.  This March I was fortunate enough to see loopdiver by Troika Ranch and Entity by Wayne McGregor | Random Dance and I was struck by a number of thoughts and feelings all at once.  In no particular order:

  • d4//c3 15 t3h U83r B&@$+ r0xx0rz, w00t
  • 50 minutes of intense visual and sonic input in such an intimate space feels like a triple shot of espresso art
  • $24 to see work by one of the world’s most inventive choreographers is just ridiculously cheap
  • $1000 to become a benefactor of the Center?  Quick, give them the money
  • I heart dancers

After further reflection I realized that one of the things I love most about dance is that its most advanced practitioners are also among the greatest collaborators in the world of art.  Imagine the Merce Cunningham Dance Company on tour in the mid 1950s. Crammed in a Volkswagen bus, going from this town here to that, are eight or so young men and women, still largely unknown and struggling to make ends meet.  Driving the bus is one of the musicians, John Cage, most likely with Merce Cunningham in the passenger seat. In the back are the other dancers including Carolyn Brown, Viola Farber, Paul Taylor, and Remy Charlip. Squeezed in with them are the other musician, David Tudor, and the stage designer and lighting director, Robert Rauschenberg.  Every single one of them went on to make huge contributions to their fields and several of them became household names, admittedly in fairly atypical houses, and recognized as masters in the fields of experimental and contemporary dance (Cunningham and Taylor), music (Cage and Tudor), and art (Rauschenberg). This was a busload of individual and collective creative talent unlikely ever to be surpassed.

Fortunately for us, over a half century later, this inventiveness and collaborative spirit lives on. Troika Ranch produce hybrid works combining dance, theater and digital media and are recognized world wide as leaders in the exploration of dance and new technology.  Wayne McGregor’s Entity is based on months of collaborative research with a group of 16 experts in the fields of cognitive science, psychology, neurosciences, linguistics, human-computer interaction, and robotics.  These two performances made me very grateful for those few visionaries and explorers who walk, or dance, among us.