Curtain Up

November 29, 2007

I was a sophomore in college when I first encountered video used to record dance. It was 1967 and our music-for-dance teacher was taping student pieces. He used a big, heavy camera, and the footage was grainy black and white. Whenever you saw yourself move quickly on screen, a wispy white echo of your body followed a split second later. It was called tracing, or ghosting.


Technology and dance have come a long way since then. Some of the best performances I’ve seen lately (and some of the worst) have deployed high-tech computer systems. Using technology opens up a whole new world of possibilities, but also a Pandora’s box of questions. What are we seeing when we watch technologically altered dance? Where is the artistic value? From motion-captured movements that create mysterious phantom-like figures dancing across scrims (like Merce Cunningham’s Biped and Bill T. Jones’ Ghostcatching), to the mind-boggling multi-media projections of Tero Saarinen in Hunt (on our cover), technology is taking dance to new corners of the imagination. In Emily Macel’s “Plugged In,” you’ll see who is on the cutting edge of this trend, and learn how not to overwhelm your audiences. In “Tech du Soleil,” Victoria Looseleaf takes us behind the scenes of the various Cirque productions that use technology on a vast scale. And in “Technology’s Ghosts,” Jody Sperling, the expert on Loie Fuller, takes us back to the early 20th century when Fuller was pioneering the use of the magic lantern to develop her astonishing images.


Every production of Nutcracker is a team effort. However, the success of the ballet often depends on a single dancer: the Sugar Plum Fairy. It’s up to her to provide the crowning glory of the ballet. In “A Spoonful of Sugar Plums,” Dance Magazine asks seven top dancers how they conjure the magic to carry this role—and the whole ballet—off to the Land of the Sweets.


In the real world, of course, not everything is sweetness and magic. We all have to deal with the misfortunes that come our way. A particularly moving story along these lines is the saga of Pamela Quinn. A fresh-faced, energetic dancer who helped establish ODC/San Francisco, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the height of her artistic maturity. How she faced this burden, accepted it, and marshaled her inner (dance) resources is an inspiring story. She now brings her hard-earned gift of body knowledge to other people with movement disorders at the Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn. Her resilient spirit reminds me that it is not the sum of your experiences that count, but how you meet the challenges that life brings you.


Wendy Perron, Editor in Chief

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