A work in the planning for a number of years, Director of Aqueous Myth and FSU Assistant Professor of Dance, Tim Glenn, has at last realized his vision, that of creating an evening-length “techno ballet,” complete with eight pre-edited video projection sources and two real-time videographers on stage. The production stylistically borrows from the film genre, blurring the boundaries of cinema and concert dance, and results in a sophisticated new work of multimedia dance theater. Glenn says, “A small, personal project, initially inspired by the university’s plan to demolish the historic Montgomery Gym swimming pool at FSU, has, within a 3.5 year period, evolved into global voyage exploring past and future experiences with water.” Aqueous Myth was selected by the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at FSU as a testing ground for technology applications. If you enjoy either dance, video, music, theater, and/or the visual arts, then this concert is for you. Read on.
Twenty-seven consecutive vignettes, including 18 dances, have been combined to create a seamless experience drenched in water-related imagery. Glenn’s opening dance, Voyage, was inspired by the 1953 choreography Aqueouscape choreographed by modern dance pioneer Alwin Nikolais. Choreographer Murray Louis, a member of the original cast of Aqueouscape, coached the FSU dancers drawing from his memory of the work. Variety and contrast are created throughout the concert with sections such as Anemones, Storm, Jellyfish, Waterbirds, Rain, and Vapor. In Drip, blue buckets glide diagonally toward the stage from above the audience. These buckets are strategically placed to collect droplets of real water falling from a plumbing network above the stage. Later, with water collected, Splash, references a playful afternoon in FSU’s historic Landis Fountain. Ice and Vapor follow. Imagine.
Joining Glenn in the production of Aqueous Myth is a long list of contributing artists, designers, and technologists. Among them, choreographer Karen Bell, Dean of the College of the Arts at Ohio State University, will perform a series of solos addressing typical uses of water encountered by the domestic housewife. Carol Burnett, put your mop and bucket aside! Other featured choreographers include: Alberto del Saz (Nikolais Dance Theatre), Wallie Wolfgruber (SUNY Brockport), Anthony Morgan and Rick McCullough (FSU), and Lindsay Meeks (FSU graduate).
Dance technology specialist Kelly Gottesman will collaborate with Glenn on projection technologies during 2 residencies at FSU. Gottesman will share his expertise in telematic performance as he assists documentation and broadcast director Marc Ray.
Great care has gone into the Aqueous Myth soundtrack, a component of the project that tested the technological limits of the Music Resource Center in the FSU Department of Dance. Twenty-one original scores will be premiered, creating the aural landscapes to which the dancers will perform. The theater has been surround sound enabled to support a number of spatial sound compositions composed for this production. Composers contributing works specifically for Aqueous Myth include: Tim Glenn, Jeffrey Rolf, Michael Strickland, Dr. Mark Wingate (recent Guggenheim Fellow and FSU School of Music Professor), and Rob Eisenberg, who composed the themes for Aqueous Myth.
Giacomo Battarino, renowned Italian pianist, will perform three scores, including his original composition for Storm. He will also perform work by Franz Schubert, and an original arrangement of Rachmaninov’s Andante from Piano Concerto no. 1 in F-sharp Minor, which he created for two hands. Battarino, acclaimed by Corriere della Sera for his “striking maturity,” brings an added layer of artistry and passion to the premiere of Aqueous Myth.
There will also be no shortage of talent on the stage. Fifty-two dancers will perform within the 1.5 hour uninterrupted production. The finale is a must see, as all 52 performers are synchronized as an ocean of partnered bodies manipulating 9-foot poles and ropes that recall images from the opening Voyage duets.
The visual metaphor of the set design is one of a nautical vessel, venturing through memory of a once-existent water planet. To facilitate this journey, Glenn has designed and ever-changing, dimensional canvas onto which pre-edited and live-feed video is used as moving light. The total theater nature of this production illustrates the influence of Glenn’s former mentor, Alwin Nikolais. Like the work of Nikolais, Aqueous Myth is the result of collective effect—gestalt. A variety of media elements are to be joined by costume designs by Ann Todd, designer for the Tallahassee Ballet, and theatrical lighting by FSU Professor Russell Sandifer. Also, Glenn, in collaboration with writing consultant Brandy T. Wilson, has composed a poetic interpretation of the project, which will be presented during a reading following the Sept. 16 performance.
The Aqueous Myth world premiere was broadcast on Internet2 and featured by Internet2 Arts and Humanities.
Justin Kahan, the Captain
photos by Jon Nalon