Network Research

One evening, as I was crossing a major intersection on a green light, a bus rammed into the back of me. Miraculously, I was not seriously injured but I felt compelled to understand why this senseless event happened to me. Was God punishing me for bad deeds? Why didn’t I die? How much control do I really have over the events in my life? To explore these questions, I created a dance performance called Chance, which uses movement to create music.

Chance blends hi-tech materials and techniques with low-tech materials to achieve its goal. Handcrafted electronic sensors are integrated into custom designed costumes for three middle-eastern dancers. As the dancers move, the data collected from the sensors is wirelessly transmitted to a computer where it is used to play sound samples. Each costume plays samples from one of the following middle-eastern instruments: the qanun, nay and darabukka. They also play either spoken words or environmental sounds. What makes the project unlike other middle-eastern dance performances is that the dancers are unable to synchronize their movements with the sounds they trigger. The result is an erratic and unpredictable performance, symbolizing my inability to predict and control chance events in my life.

The project is inspired not only by my bus accident but also the collaborative works of composer, John Cage and Choreographer, Merce Cunningham. Their collaborations were unique in that the music and dance were created independently of one another but performed together simultaneously. Like Chance, their performances were erratic, unsynchronized and appeared to be unstructured. Their work challenged the viewer to look beyond traditional music and dance structures and find meaning in what appeared to be chaos. Similarly, I challenge the viewer to look beyond their expectations of middle-eastern music and dance to find meaning in this performance.

High technology used: Laptop computers, Lilypad Arduino, XBee Series 1 Radio, 3.7V Lithium Polymer Battery, insulated wire, handcrafted sensors (made with washers, grommets, Velostat, conductive thread and conductive fabric) a software program called Processing and a digital printer for textiles.

Low technology and techniques used: Needle and thread, sewing machine, couching, wet felting, hand dyeing, free-motion embroidery, hand cutting and hand sewing.

Denise Mireau, owner and director of the Studio for Movement, Sabine Saroyan and Ioana Timariu perform the dance.

j vimeo.com/40470426

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