FACETS :: Sarah Neville

7 – 27 January 2006, Bangalore India

2005_Sarah Neville

2005_Sarah Neville

Electric Saris/ Mango trees/ Performing dogs and Radio dancing

My experience at FACETS was highly rewarding as a professional development opportunity as well as a successful networking platform and a creative space at which I made exciting progress with my choreographic work for the Oxygen project.

The Oxygen project in an ongoing research into the theme of oxygen and breath, through a multi-platform investigation that includes dance, performance, video and interactive new media interfaces and devices. The core Oxygen team consists of Mari Velonaki, Monica Narula and myself.

The FACETS workshop consisted of a three weeks of physical movement skills building in Iyengar Yoga, Contemporary dance class led by Yael Fletcher (Bedlam dance company, London) and Jayachandran Palazhy (Attakalari), Bharatanatyam and Kalarippayattu a South Indian Martial Art form. These classes were run each morning for the dancers and the choreographers who wished to attend. True to form I attended all the Asian classes and stayed away from the contemporary classes, preferring to use the time working on my choreographic work.

Sarah Neville, PotPlants, 2005

Sarah Neville, PotPlants, 2005

New media and production workshops were led by technical creatives in the afternoons of the first week. I reconfirmed my knowledge of lighting technology with Thomas Doltzer; was introduced to established multi-media dance software (Isadora) and newly invented software (Aviator) by Joseph Hyde (UK); Observed Nic Sandilands (UK) experiments with dance film; re-united with a peer from Tokyo Matsuo Kunihiko a member of NEST new media unit; and was duly inspired by the sonic genius of Lorenzo Brusci (Italy), with whom I immediately designed to collaborate.

From the second week, choreographers were asked to select the dancers and new media / production creatives with whom they wished to work with. My focus at the workshop was to develop a better understanding of classical Indian dance forms and to experiment with contemporary interpretations of these forms. Therefore I chose to work with three Attakalari dancers; Rohini, Hemabharthy and Legipaul, who had backgrounds in Bharatanatyam, Kathak and Gugipudi dance as well as a professional London based Kathak dancer Amina Khan. Furthermore, I had wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to work with a larger group of dancers that the Australian funding system usually allows, so I also invited contemporary dancers Rachel Deadman (UK), Patty Woltman (Germany) and Anna Ramsay (Ireland), to join my choreographic process. All of the dancers were interested in cross platform performance and interdisciplinary practice.

I presented my choreographic ideas to the panel of FACETS facilitators and following Lorenzo Brusci (sound), Thomas Doltzer (light) and Matsuo Kunihiko (programming) agreed to collaborate with me. As a choreographer with new media skills I found this process very equal, I worked side by side with my creative team creating most of the digital content and liaising with them to extend my creativity. Working with Brusci on the sound really helped to expand my idea of how sound can be performed moving around an open space with limited speakers. Likewise I found my artistic collaboration with Doltzer to be very constructive as we designed the lighting in conversation together and sought alternative mediums for illumination. The programming skills of Matsuo were invaluable. It was disappointing however that the dancers were not able to take advantage of their new media and production skills, within my project as they were dancing for other choreographers simultaneously and their time was limited.

The creative outcome was viewed by an invited audience consisting of the local Bangalore arts community and was received extremely well. I presented a prototype of the choreographic work resulting from an investigation of the Oxygen theme workshopped over two weeks. I had created an interactive performance installation, situated in two adjoining sites; a gigantic Mango tree and a volleyball court. The piece began at the Mango tree under which I had installed the very tall English dancer Rachel Deadman, who wore an ‘Electric Sari’ which had soft switches embedded into the folds and multi coloured wires extending from her torso woven into the branches of the tree to the midi controller camouflaged amongst the foliage. As the audience entered they were invited via a demonstration by German dancer Patty Woltman to interact with the dancer to divine the sound score and the images projected onto the tree. The triggers were constructed with metallic laced sari material under the instructions of New York based Catherine Moriwaki whom I had met at the ANAT laboratory at the end of 2005 in Melbourne. We liaised online and thereby manifest a public outcome of the ANAT lab in a new international setting. My sewing skills also improved remarkably in India, that’s sewing whilst drinking Kingfisher beer and talking to the other 7 choreographers about their work.

Simultaneous to the audience pushing Rachel’s soft switches and her counter reacting in a Butoh inspired ‘wind moving through the body’ sequence, the other dancers were stationed around the circumference of the tree moving at first in empathy with Rachel. Subsequently sound files were triggered which embalmed the space with visceral sounds emitted from swinging clay pots oscillating the soundscape around the tree, as designed by Brusci. Images I captured from local Bangalore area were also projected in sequence with the sound on to the trees branches and the bark of the trunk. Following the dancers moved into more intricate movements sequenced from personal conversations with me about their own experience with air quality and oxygen.

The tiny Bharatnatyam dancer Rohini, swept across the space and leapt up into the tree swinging the clay sound prosthetics. Hemaparthti and Amina Khan enacted a story through Kathak dance, telling how Amina swept through the air on a limb of a tree, whilst Irish Anna divulged a story of surviving a life threatening illness when she felt she was unable to breath and Patty physically represented an attempt to remain clean in a polluted city. Above the dancers, in the tree amongst the clay speakers were plastic containers of illuminated air, suspended and designed by Thomas Doltzer, glowing and highlighting the haze of action beneath.

Concurrently, three jars were lit up with the narrative movement phrases of the seven dancers, presented as hologramic images floating in the incense bathed air within the jars. The dancers hummed (under the musical guidance of Brusci) their way towards some pot plants, where they turned on their own personal torches embedded in the plants and their personal transistor radios were tuned to provide their own selected soundscore. To the alternating sound of Hindi tunes, American rock, the news hour, radio static and Bollywood pop, the dancers traveled to the Volleyball court bringing the audience with them. Here they performed a choreography that moved from a performance of contemporised Indian dance forms, performance art, first aid positions and a quite humorous struggle with some feral dogs, to an outright celebration and party with Japanese interventionists.

Overall I was very happy with the work created within a two week workshop environment. The creative team and the audience enjoyed themselves and I had very positive feedback from the Facets teams, particularly Yael Fletcher and Gerome Bell. I dearly hope that I can have a further opportunity to work with the Attakalari dancers again in the future and I look forward to developing Oxgen further with Mari Velonaki and Monica Narula in the future.

Subsequent outcomes of my participation at FACETS to date are;
-An invitation to Srishti college of Art and Technology in Bangalore. This invitation was extended on behalf of Arts Catalyst, a UK based Arts/Science production agency who are interested in producing “Oxygen.” At Srishti I gave a presentation of my work as part of an Arts / Science conference.
-I have now made a successful professional connection with Attakalari, who are a contemporary dance company and educational institution who might be interested in working further with me on the Oxygen project in both Australia and Bangalore in the future.
-After FACETS, I traveled to Sarai in New Delhi for a follow up meeting with Monica Narula, Oxygen collaborator. This conversation has ensured that the collaborative relationship is still ongoing and plans were made to continue the work.
-Lastly, I took up an opportunity to test out the projection work with the Jars of incense and avatar projections at The Art Gallery of South Australia’s ‘departure’ party (an initiative to encourage young people into the gallery). The installation was not only a success but a prominent art collector who is on the advisory committee for the contemporary art collection for the gallery has made an offer to buy the installation for his private collection. As visual arts is a new platform for me and there are obvious intellectual property issues, I am currently seeking professional advice and negotiations for sale of part of the installation.

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