I am admitting right here and now that I am not a dance expert. I have taken dance and know several specific techniques, and I definitely know what I like. My entire reason to review both Ellie Leonhardt presents Pixel Dances and Satellite-Dance Collective is because they both describe their work as a combination of dance, music, and video art.
For their productions at the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival, they both use computer technology as another art form within the pieces.
First, Ellie Leonhardt performs solo in both Caught.Catching and Encapsulating. Static movements and long holds interwine gracefully as a camera picks up her moves and immediately displays them on the large projection screen behind. Sitting onstage to the side, with computer and other technical devices at hand, composer and intermedia artist, David Bithell, captures Leonhardt's dancing and, as she moves, the computer (I assume) duplicates her, then pauses her as Leonhardt continues to dance. Later, the technology layers her movement, brings her in and out of the picture, and back again to present time. In Encapsulating, Bithell adds a metallophone, a beautiful Javanese wood and brass instrument. Like a small xylophone, it's low, gong-like sound blends mysteriously with Leonhardt's movement.
Pixel Dances' ensemble piece, The Well Interruption, combine eight women in duplication with Bithell's "vertical set design" - videos of the tops of different trees at winter; swaying, rustling, being still. Colors of ochre, dark green, amber and rust in their clothing further accents the natural setting and the entire piece illuminates calmness. I always love to watch dancers moving in unison and this ensemble easily meld together, fall away, join again and the piece accentuates their talent and ability.
Ellie Leonhardt has gathered a fine ensemble of young women who know their craft, perform with elegance and maturity and I look forward to seeing their future endeavors.
If you take Satellite-Dance Collective's name literally, it is a wonderful description as their work is collaboration between dance and interactive media – camera and computer. The first piece, The Eclipse Project, use two tripod cameras at each side of the stage with a V wedge projection screen at center. As the two women move from behind and around the screen and into the cameras, their images are distorted by both the computer and the screen. One camera did not seem to be projecting anything but it did not deter from the performance.
I hardly ever use press release text to enhance my reviews, but in this case, it will assist in describing the beauty of their second piece, Water's Edge. This work "is an intermedia dance infused with text, sound score, and projected water images ... illuminating a continuum of change." "Three women aboard a vessel (and)forage into the abyss of change ... pouring, drowning, climbing ... approaching the water's edge" ... "and resolve into freedom on the other side." These three are clothed in diaphanous tunics and pants of red, navy and gold. As they flow, battle and succumb to the water, gauzy color images are projected in the background. The piece is so ethereal, so delicate and beautifully performed.
Artistic Director and Choreographer, Mary Lynn Babcock, founded this company in 2009. While they are still young, the talent onstage is far from novice and has the richness and confidence of more seasoned dancers. I am anxious to see where this young company will perform next and am now intrigued to see more of this imaginative blend of dance and technology - human and machine.