Desktop Dance

TRANSPARENT choreography by Samara L. Thompson. Part of the Words 'N Motion Series, August 16 at 8 pm, August 18.

TRANSPARENT choreography by Samara L. Thompson. Part of the Words ‘N Motion Series, August 16 at 8 pm, August 18 at 3:30 pm. Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander). Rating: NNNNN

These days, Samara L. Tthompson choreographs as much in front of the computer as she does in the studio. For the past decade, she’s worked with computer-generated images, particularly with Life Forms, a 3-D movement application that’s been used in action flicks like Jurassic Park and Terminator 2.

“Working with technology adds a whole other dimension,” she says. “It helps me combine my intellectual side with my creative side. Plus, it’s really playful. Where else but on a computer screen can you see a body flip upside down or go through a floor or have a dancer’s arm go through a head?”

Her new piece, Transparent, came about last fall, while she was recovering from two years of illness. She won’t tell me what she had, but explains that it prevented her from dancing.

“During that time I felt bound in my own body,” she says. “I went to the studio and couldn’t do what I could before. It made me feel uncomfortable in my own skin.”

Transparent deals with being bound. In fact, the letters of the word “bound” form an abstract visual and movement motif, but Thompson says they won’t be used “in a Sesame Street way.” She’s more concerned with the contrast — for the audience and performer — of human and animated movements.

For the show’s first three and a half minutes, for instance, a woman sits on the floor exploring her body by stretching her limbs. Then she gets up and sees an animated body — projected onto a scrim at the back of the theatre — doing pretty much the same thing, and she reacts to it, trying to touch it.

So far, she hasn’t let her dancers experience the full effect of the 12-foot computer images, which are textured and coloured blue, like their costumes. She doesn’t want them to get too comfortable with them, and wants their reactions to be honest.

“With all these technical things, the more that’s human the better.”

Having worked so intensely with digital images, Thompson’s sensitive to how technology is changing our view of the world and ourselves.

“Look at kids playing with video games with digitally enhanced babes. Or how e-mail has affected communication. There’s a distance that comes with the technology.

“It feels odd that I could create dance without human dancers. What I’ve realized, though, is that there’s nothing like the breath, sweat and muscles of a body. Bodies aren’t perfect. But that’s good. Perfect can be dull.”

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