In this guest post, choreographer/performer Shay Kuebler writes about the diverse and exciting ideas behind his upcoming new work Telemetry, which he is researching during our DanceLab interdisciplinary program this month:
Telemetry: researching human communication, memory and the body through the science of radio systems and elements of bebop jazz, swing, tap, house, and contemporary dance.
This project was instigated by a love for pure physical expression and how this is a base language – a form of communication – that we all understand. As babies, expressing and understanding the human body’s transmission of information is likely one of the first necessities of survival. Such a necessity that the information in our bodies on how to cry, scream and smile is embedded into our DNA. It is instinctual and not learnt behavior – although some do learn how to use these emotions better then others.
The body as the device and content
The body being a conduit for communication, history, information, is what I believe makes dance and theatre such rich art forms. Spoken language has a way of creating borders between people yet the physical form is something that will always unify us and universally reach everyone – to a degree of course. From this notion, I started to develop ideas around the human body being a relay system and a vessel of history, memory, intention, with a constant need to connect to another system as well as the body itself as a composition and a system of collected moments, ideas, elements, pasts. I look to explore this idea through a mixed language of jazz, bebop, swing, tap, house and contemporary dance around the choreographic interpretation of radio systems and other systems.
The relevance of jazz, swing, bebop/house fusion and tap dance is formed through how the art forms are expressed. All of these forms rely on play between structure and the improvisational exploration of technique and structure. To me this spoke to the ends of connectivity and communication – pushing and exploring to the limits of structure and form before information is lost or distorted. It is this searching that made me think about the connection to human communication and human relationships. We are constantly influenced by our history and our memories, and this informs our somewhat improvisational way through life. There’s a plan and a guide of what should be done, but we can never have it all mapped out. From this, there’s a pull between what is in front of us and what we have to leave behind – the realities of our current situation and the necessity to move forward.
Swing dance always looks to push to the furthest point the momentum, direction and physical tension of the connections between partners. For me, the whiplash back and forth between partners is a concentrated view on how we continually are pulled in numerous directions with the shifts in our lives and our aspirations against the time we are given. It is also the effort of maintaining your sense of centre whilst also reaching to the furthest point outside of yourself. There’s a sense of giving yourself up and a willingness to be thrown off with your partner and for your partner. This selflessness is beautiful and there’s an inherent sense of love when you see swing performed.
Lastly, the blending of tap, jazz and house creates a baseline from which all the choreographic and conceptual elements in the work can be further explored. This language has the ability to connect all the artists, highlight the individual, denote ideas of impact and weight, interact with sound and lighting elements, alter the momentum of the performance (through rhythmic structuring) and reveal detailed pictures of the body through the suspension and alteration of velocity. For this upcoming DanceLab, rhythmic exploration will be a new element to explore that can relate to the history and delineation of bebop jazz and ideas in radio science of scattering and diffraction.
December marks the first phase of technical and choreographic research for Telemetry. The company and collaborative artists are looking to start developing theory around a number of elements in the project:
- Developing interactive lighting with contact microphones and handheld or physical lighting instruments. Looking to create an interactive environment for the performers that can explore ideas around the impact of history and memories, the deconstruction of time, and the influence of physical impact.
- Develop an interactive layer of live sound and live interactive lighting to utilize tap dance as a central point of energy, intention and information towards the other performers. Choreographically, exploring how tap dance both audibly and physically can influence the performance of the other artists.
- Look to infuse the theory of bebop music which emphasizes irregular counting/structuring, random accenting, longer phrasing and extended improvisation.
- Research how tap dance and the sonic landscape created live can be explored and distorted live to relate to ideas around the frequency and defraction of communication, the embedded history and memories found in the human body, and the human form as a vessel and residue of time.
- Develop a more kinetic and shifting lighting array and system that can reflect the energy of the performers, highlight the relay between connections and lost connections, be influenced by the pressure and contact of the performers through sensors and other means.
- Explore choreographic ideas around radio systems including relay, transmission, reception, time and frequency, scattering and diffraction, and other elements that relate to human interaction, connections, the group and the individual, and memory.
- Deconstructing swing dance language and the footwork of jazz/bebop fusion to explore further ideas around radio sciences, the influence of the individual, the influence of the group, the desperation of communication and the resistance of history and memory.
An informal DanceLab Studio Showing of Shay’s research and work in progress takes place on Friday December 18, 2015 at 3pm at Scotiabank Dance Centre in Vancouver. Free admission: all welcome.
Telemetry will premiere February 20-22 at the 2016 Chutzpah! Festival.
Collaborators: Shay Kuebler - Artistic Director and Sound Design
Craig Alfredson - Technical Direction, Interactive software and Light Design
Danny Nielsen - Tap Artist
Lexi Vajda, Nicholas Lydiate, Maxine Chadburn, Tyler Layton Olson and Shay Kuebler - Performers
Photos by David Cooper: dancers Shay Kuebler and Lexi Vajda (top) and Shay Kuebler and Tyler Layton Olson (bottom).