Friday, August 14, 2015

Hakanaï at SFU Woodward's

It's been a while since I've posted. Following all of my dance activity (both the doing and spectating of it) during June and July, it's been a quiet August so far. Last night, however, I roused myself from my heat-stoked stupor and made it to SFU Woodward's for Hakanaï, an interactive dance performance and immersive digital art installation by the French company AM/CB (the initials of company principals Adrien Mondat and Claire Bardainne). The piece, which has one more performance this evening in Studio T, is being presented as part of the 2015 International Workshop on Movement and Computing (MOCO), itself an offshoot of the massive International Symposium on Electronic Art, which has taken over SFU Woodward's and various other venues throughout the city for the next week (see the cover of this week's Georgia Straight for more details).

Hakanaï features a lone female dancer (Akiko Kajihara) moving inside a translucent cube. Projected onto the outside of the cube are different black and white shapes, including a sea of floating letters of numbers as the audience files in to take their seats and awaits the start of the performance. As the dancer begins to move, so do the projections, responding to her physical gestures. Thus, for example, as the dancer lowers herself slowly from standing position into a low crouch at the top of the performance, so does the thin-lined square grid of light in which the cube is wrapped begin to descend and then disappear into the floor. A bit later on the dancer appears to raise with her hands thicker bolts of white, which to a thumping bass beat she then radiates horizontally about the cube. In these and other moments when the patterning of the projections was more geometrical I was reminded of the Jeff Bridges movie Tron, except in the case of Hakanaï it would appear to be the digital software responding to the body's hardware rather than the other way around.

Some of the projections are more fluid, constellatory and fractal-like, as with the sheer drape of connected lines and dots (molecules under a microscope, perhaps, or electrons interacting with each other in a superconductor) that the dancer sweeps this way and that and pokes rippling liquid holes into near the end of the piece. In these moments, when our perception is divided equally between the dancer's moving body and the projected images in motion Hakanaï succeeds brilliantly. By contrast, when the projections disappear and the dancer moves on her own inside the cube I found my attention wandering. The choreography, on its own, is not especially inspired and this is definitely a piece where our kinaesthetic imaginations are very much triggered by the complementarity and interactivity of real and virtual motion.

Following the conclusion of the 45-minute performance Hakanaï becomes an immersive installation for members of the audience, who are permitted--ten at a time--to interact with the visuals. I didn't stick around, as a massive line-up formed almost immediately. But I certainly understand the appeal. Who wouldn't want to experience that kind of gestural power--where, with the simple arc of one's hand, one can tangibly redistribute time and space? It's what dancers do everyday, and inside Hakanaï's cube everyone is a dancer.


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