Fabien Prioville’s Experiment on Chatting Bodies deploys social media
Fabien Prioville has danced for some of the most celebrated troupes on the planet, from Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal to Edouard Lock’s La La La Human Steps. And he’s grateful for those influential years. But well into his career, he’s now breaking new ground, upending dance with social media and heading in a completely different direction. Think movement choreographed around Skype. At home in Düsseldorf, the French-born artist sounds like he’s never felt more inspired.
“It’s not interesting for me to respond to anything that I’ve done already,” says the artistic director of Fabien Prioville Dance Company over the phone before heading here for a performance at the Scotiabank Dance Centre. “I want to go beyond the main purpose of these social technologies touching everyone today, so for me the best way to do that is to put them in the performing arts.…My question was: can an interaction using social technology in a stage performance work? I learned it is possible.”
In Experiment on Chatting Bodies he wires into people around the world via Skype. Sometimes they participate directly in the dance from their living rooms; sometimes they simply sing a song or sit in their homes as their image is projected on-screen. “I wanted to create a live dialogue in the performance,” he explains. “As choreographers, we usually come with all the content—the music, the video, the dance. With this I wanted to give responsibility to other people to bring their own content to the shows. Every time you access art on the Internet, that art has already been completed and you come to it later. With this, it’s making art at the same time as you’re online. I wanted to redefine what a performing space is.”
With Chatting Bodies, Prioville put out a call via Facebook to invite people to participate in the creation of the work. He was astounded, and overwhelmed, by the responses. At one point, he found himself rehearsing with a group of three young dancers in L.A. as they showed him steps from their home. Elsewhere, he found a woman from Marseilles who, when she sits in front of her webcam in her colourful apartment with her dog, looks “like a painting come to life”. “There’s something that happens about the fusion of a stage performance and an image of a person in the world,” Prioville says.
To contrast the virtual interactions on-screen, he and performer Pascal Merighi (also a Wuppertal alumnus) constantly work with endless partnering and physical connection on-stage.
Prioville may not be able to make that same physical contact with his Skype collaborators, but he hopes to one day connect with them in person. “We have met wonderful people and I’ve spoken with them many times,” Prioville says.
In the same way, the artist, whose next work deploys smartphone technology, aims to connect with people beyond the dance elite. “I’m not interested to dance for my own kind,” he says. “I want to bring new people into dance.”
Fabien Prioville’s Experiment on Chatting Bodies is at the Scotiabank Dance Centre on Friday (September 21).