Hakanaï a true dance hybrid

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      An Adrien M/Claire B production. Presented by MOCO’15 (International workshop on Movement and Computing) and the International Symposium on Electronic Art. At Studio T at SFU Woodward’s in the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts. Continues Friday, August 14

      You can go online to see excerpts from French artists Adrien Mondot and Claire Bardainne’s groundbreaking meld of dance and the digital. But nothing beats experiencing their three-dimensional “cube” and its galaxy of motion-activated lights live.

      In the darkened Studio T theatre, visitors sat on three sides of the ethereal cube, made of transparent screen. White lights and shapes danced on the darkened box, surrounding serene solo dancer Akiko Kajihara with a blizzard of letters and symbols. At times, the patterns looked like the bars of a prison, a glowing grid, endless constellations, or even a pelting rainstorm.

      Where the piece really found flight was when serene dancer Akiko Kajihara would “move” the light patterns. She pulled aside the grid into folds, like a voluminous curtain, and twirled it above her like a giant fishing net; created rippling waves by throwing her hands at a criss-crossing matrix, turning its sharp lines into liquid; and she gathered the letters and symbols into a grand vortex with a swish of her arms.

      The mood of the piece ranged from spine-tinglingly haunting, with spare, echoey guitar strumming, to stark and hard-lined, with a roof-shaking beat pulsing while bars flashed up and over the dancer. Kajihara’s trick was being able to ground the work in human emotion amid the digitalized lights, running the gamut from joy to Zen-like peace.

      The mood in the audience, on the other hand, was mostly one of awe—especially when viewers were allowed, after the show, to enter the cube in groups of 10 to immerse themselves in the lights and make puddles and holes appear and disappear amid the walls’ liquid constellation.

      The implications of the software are immense: in many ways, Hakanaï reads as more of an experiment to show audiences the variety of effects provided by the new digital ability than a fully realized piece. In Vancouver, we are used to pieces integrating the digital/projected realm with the visual—work by Animals of Distinction, Sara Coffin, and 604 Collective come to mind—but rarely have we seen this kind of symbiosis.

      There is something extremely exciting about a piece that can so seamlessly meld the real with the virtual and the artistic with the technological. It’s also a true hybrid of dance with installation art and the choreography rarely gets lost amid the spectacular light show. At its best moments, the piece reaches an almost cosmic, out-of-body transcendence, the effect heightened, no doubt, by the white points of lights’ similarity to stars.

      Mostly though, Hakanaï feels like the beginning of something—a realm in its infancy that we are only starting to explore but that opens whole new universes of choreography.