DanceEast premiere explores the role of technology in modern life
PUBLISHED: 19:15 06 November 2019
Our lives, our likes and dislikes, have never been so available for scrutiny as they are today. Now choreographer Alexander Whitley premieres a work at DanceEast which asks whether this information is restricting our decision-making rather than enhancing it
DanceEast continues to mark it's tenth anniversary with its third premiere in as many weeks. This time it is the turn of former associate artist and acclaimed choreographer Alexander Whitley who will be unveiling his ground-breaking new work Overflow which will be exploring how we as people shape the world in which we live and how we are molded and shaped by the technology we have invented.
Alexander Whitley admits that he is fascinated by technology and how it becomes assimilated into our lives and into our world. He describes Overflow as a timely exploration of the human condition in the era of big data.
"I don't tend to tell linear stories, not in the traditional sense of a narrative, but rather to explore ideas and with Overflow it is a collaboration with a host of different artists to see how they respond to the idea of our society being shaped by information technology and how our data is being used to determine how we live our lives and to influence the decisions we make."
He said that he has worked with a close-knit team, including digital artists, filmmakers, academics, designers and composers, to create an atmospheric world where the movement of the dancers in just one element in an audio-visual landscape which is designed to engage the minds, the emotions and the imaginations of the audience.
"The creative possibilities opened up by digital technologies is almost overwhelming but we have to stop and think about how we harness these developments. We have to consider whether these new technologies are controlling us rather than pushing us towards new heights and new freedoms."
He said that in a world where data and personal information is being shared all the time, where our likes and dislikes are being monitored, where our opinions are being mirrored and reinforced; are we really free agents any more?
"These are big questions which are more easily explored through dance because many of the arguments are emotive and it is easier to express our feelings through movement than rely on words which can be constraining."
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Overflow sees Whitley build on his reputation for creating thought-provoking and visually arresting stage productions. This new work features an exhilarating new score by composer and long-time collaborator Rival Consoles who has created music for the TV series Black Mirror, stunning kinetic light sculpture by Children of the Light (with creative technologists Fenyce & lighting designer Guy Hoare) and striking costumes by award-winning designer, Ana Rajcevic.
Alexander Whitley said he has long been fascinated by the speed with which technology has taken control of our lives and Overflow examines a world which is now very different from how it was 10 years ago. "Behavioural data, mined from human experience, is now the primary commodity in a communication system designed to know everything about us while remaining unknowable to us. Recording our every click and 'like' in order to predict and modify our behaviour, our ability to act freely and our relationship to the future are fundamentally changed.
"In making Overflow, I've drawn inspiration from a wealth of fascinating writing exposing the social, political and psychological transformations we are experiencing in the era of big data."
This is a topic that Alexander has returned to several times over the course of his career and each time the landscape has changed - sometimes greatly.
As New Wave Associate at Sadler's Wells, a former associate at Rambert and former choreographic affiliate of the Royal Ballet, Alexander Whitley has received significant attention for his past works exploring the impact of technology on contemporary human experience and his ground-breaking use of interactive tech to redefine the parameters of choreography.
In Overflow he is using an interactive light sculpture which will react to the movements of the dancers and become another creative character within the piece.
His innovative stage productions, installations and virtual reality experiences have established a reputation for ambitious and intellectually engaging work. These include 8 Minutes and the accompanying Virtual Reality piece Celestial Motion which takes audiences on a breathtaking journey to the sun.
Recent collaborators include experimental musician and producer Beatrice Dillon, world renowned juggler Sean Gardini, BAFTA Award winning visual artist Tal Rosner, Thomas Adès one of England's most distinguished concert composers, artist/creative technologist Memo Atken and leading immersive art collective Marshmallow Laser Feast.
Alistair Spalding, artistic director and chief executive, Sadler's Wells Theatre said: "Alexander's work is of particular interest and significance for the way in which it engages with contemporary thinking and current issues. He creates not only beautiful and interesting forms of movement but conceives of choreography as the embodiment of an intellectual pursuit."
Overflow will premiere at DanceEast on November 8 before touring internationally including the London premiere at Sadler's Wells Theatre on April 17 2020.
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