WORLD DANCE ALLIANCE GLOBAL EVENT in New York

Thanks to people who pointed out a few e-lists to find sublet accommodation which made this trip possible!  James Cunningham and I first stayed on 42nd street, right next to Times Square, perfect place to feel the beat of the city and also to go to conference venues but not so good for the sleeping cycle already quite challenged by the jetlag and the heat! Cats were sleeping beside the fan! photos on flickr!

What I got the most from the WDA conference was: interesting meetings and contacts, afternoon studio showings (some innovative works), amazing Taiwanese performers and choreographers in their technique and quirkiness.

The evening showings were laborious at times, as I had to fight my body clock trying to put me asleep in a cosy dark place, and struggling with lots of ‘modern dance’, except for the Isadora Duncan Dance Company which was retracing some pieces.  Screendancewise, if there were videos in pieces, they were all projected as backdrops, behind performers, without using depth of stage, multiscreens or/and direct movements interaction (except for ‘States of Gravity & Light #2′ by Merian Soto who played with her shadow casted on video projection of water).

WAAPA dance students seemed to have had a great opportunity participating in the University Wisconsin-Madison Summer Dance Institute, for 3 weeks before the conference, ‘worked on’ by various choreographers. Some great performers coming up!
The Australian contingent had interesting approaches in education with the multidisciplinary techlabs (Avril Huddy and Madonna Ellaby, QUT), practical transitions from studies to employment in the performing arts (Robyn Torney, WAAPA/ECU) and seeding interests for and participation in arts from early childhood with nice process (Jeff Meiners, UniSA). Great to share time with Leah Shelton, Tammi Gissell, Matthew Day and Sarah-Mace Dennis.

I was surprised to hear people talking about:
- ‘vertical hierarchy’ with ‘bottom up and top down’ ways of thinking, while I feel we strongly need to address laterality in order to embrace rapid and important changes in technology influencing our daily lives!
- the use of video in classrooms as if it’s a new tool, replacing the mirror. I remember using it already in the late 70ies – hmm, more than 30 years ago!
- the use of podcasting, posting videos for students to revise their class, seems to be a good and sensible way of using internet, but on the other hand – I still don’t understand why YouTube seemed to be considered by some teachers like a bad spell for education!
- ‘the natural way for dancer to film/cut/edit/move the camera, as ”the dancer’s eye knows the dance!’, a statement from a moderator which could have been discussed a bit more.
These points triggered personal reflections about elitism versus accessibility, and technique versus expression, which to me, ultimately are diversions from the primordial aspect of art: the content!

I got food for thoughts from the sessions: ‘Intercultural Aesthetics’; ‘Movement and Meaning’ with Michael Parmentier’s (NZ) duet vocabulary (piloting, tacting and zooming) and the performative presentation by Eduardo Oramas (Columbia- translation of his paper); ‘Tension in Time: Endure, Relate, Disrupt, Flex and Web’ a rich session with a particular focus for me on the skype presentation by Valerie Alpert; and the writing workshop with Marcia Siegel: ‘Looking at Dance – Writing Dance’. Marcia’s workshop happened over 2 sessions, gave some tips and hints about: writing ‘things as they are’, more detailed observations, making a personal lexicon with basic choreographic elements, finding the structure, questioning the relationship between performers, the space…. Marcia took the screendance ‘Arms’ by Susan Marshall as a starting point for exercises. She didn’t acknowledge it as a screendance but as a pure dance, with video being a means to watch it. While for me, its black and white aesthetic, the camera view points and editing were entirely part of the work we watched, a screendance.
TRAVEL NOTES: NYU cafetaria has a great view on the Empire State building.   A food cart across the road was selling delicious dosa.

The simultaneous Dance Critics Association conference was a plus:
- all evening shows got reviewed, and reviews were discussed the day after
- great session organised by Deirdre Towers, director of Dance on camera Festival, asking overtly what would be Dance Critics interests and fees for reviewing screendances.  Nice to meet Deirdre in person, after lots of emails exchange. We had a few great discussions.
- amazing intervention by Baraka Sele, producer of the New Jersey Cultural Center, during the session about ‘Cultural Exchange in 2010′.  She asked critics to take out of their vocabulary: minority, multicultural, coloured people – every body has a colour, joking about being non-white – and have a global perspective instead of talking about being ‘inclusive’, because – she said – ‘You are in control of how the world/people talk’!

I presented my fellowship work with an accent on the project emerging from my networked performance research (Virtual Fountains, title might changed) in a session called ‘Movement and/on Video’, shared with Maria Adriana Verdaasdonk, Ann Moradian and Nanette Bertschy. People from Guatemala, Columbia, New York, Chicago showed immediate interests in participating in the Virtual Fountains, and after discussion with the Chair of World Dance Alliance Americas, Jin-Wen Yu, the project might be used for next 2012 WDA conference in Taiwan, which will have a focus on dance & technology.  As Igneous installation performance ‘MIRAGE’ will be shown early October at Nuit Blanche Festival in Toronto, James and I announced it to some presenters and artists who might be able to see it ‘live’.  After Toronto, we will go for a week to teach and lecture at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and I got also an invitation by Jin-Wen Yu to present the ‘Virtual Fountains’ to the University of Wisconsin-Madison students, where I hope to meet Doug Rosenberg, who lectures there. We might go to Chicago before leaving (still working on the itinerary), to visit Valerie Alpert and her dancers. She is pursuing a PhD about Digital Dance at the Texas Women University.

James and I had the chance to see ‘A disappearing Number’ by La Complicite at Lincoln Center: very moving, great use of the stage and projections with multiple and moveable screens accentuating shifts between time periods, also underlined by performers physicality.  Second week in NY, we moved to an apartment in Brooklyn, visited a bit our new neighborhood, Chinatown, Lower East Side, Central Park, went to see a few exhibitions ‘Haunted’ at the Guggenheim, ‘Off the Wall’ at the Whitney, tried to refrain from buying books at Strandbook Store where we met 2 performers from Melbourne Luke Hockley and Jonathan Sinatra, watched Fortier performing ’30 x 30′, 30-minute solo daily for 30 consecutive days outdoor, met Jody Oberfelder, Larry Goldhuber, went on a tech-trip in H&D megastore where it is possible to try a lot of equipment (sent to the cashiers on a long conveyor belt throughout the shop, which felt like being in ‘Brazil’ movie!). Great to see the pico/micro-projectors with LED lights, all beside each other.

End of July, we went to Amherst where we spent a few days with Wendy Woodson, talking/showing each others works, spending great time exchanging information, feedback, good food, wine, swimming in the lake and visiting Earthdance and MassMOCA. Wow! Intense and beautiful summer days!

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