Falling Up is a multimedia dance/theatre/music/video collaboration featuring performer-controlled video and sound manipulation through the use of motion-sensing technology. The solo performance was the culmination of 4 years of research and development of a new choreographic language made possible by emerging digital technology, featuring interactive sound and audio processing, video playback, and real-time video processing, all influenced by the movement of a performer.
Falling Up explores concepts of gravity, flying and many of its related metaphors: the physical self, imagination, and how old beliefs hold us in place, limit and color our experiences. Inspired by inventors and pioneers, the first pilots, astronauts, and digital explorers, we examine moments in the 20th Century where technology enabled us to do something previously impossible and changed how we think forever. The work also speculates on future technologies, enabling the body to be transported, modified and projected.
These concepts are illustrated through a new kinesthetic vocabulary refined and inspired by live video and sound processing. The choreography is enhanced through use of the Very Nervous System, which uses a video camera to report speed and location to a computer. Movements are identified and mapped in software to play various sounds, text, or alter a dancer's projected image. The motion-sensing technology enables the performer to control various computer processes that can alter her own projected video image and generate sound. In turn the altered images and the sonic results influence choreographic decisions and kinesthetic response. This creates a dynamic three-way interaction, with movement, sound and image created interdependently during a performance. These techniques open up new possibilities to explore the body as an agent for technological transformation, where the physical and virtual are merged.
Three distinct eras are explored. The era of the first airplane flights includes archival footage of fanciful planes that never got off the ground, with “scientific” explanations from 19th Century engineers describing the impossibility of human flight. The second area focuses on space travel and the moon landings. Science fiction clips are interspersed with NASA footage and live video processing. The third section looks to the future, exploring time travel, distortions of time and space, black holes, and other types of body projections. The performer appears several times as a character, the Aviatrix, who attempts to explain various phenomena to the audience, while interacting with video clips and video processing.
Research for Falling Up was conducted through residencies at Brown University, USA, which provided facilities and technical assistance. The development process for Falling Up was facilitated by Dublin Fringe Festival, and a choreographic bursary awarded by The Irish Arts Council in 2000. The work was premiered as part of Dublin Fringe 2001.
Falling Up uses The Very Nervous System (D. Rokeby) for motion tracking, Max/MSP for sound and interactive programming, and NATO for live video processing. The computer measures the position and speed of the dancer and can play back and alter video files or a live video feed. The system is also use to control live audio processing, such as having filters respond to movement. Although the B-movie interludes are borrowed from old films, all of the main sections feature spontaneously generated sound and images, so that movement, sound and image are all mutually influential. The dancer views herself on a video monitor placed on stage during the performance. Two video projections and two-channel sound are handled via Max.
For more info see: "Movement-Activated Sound and Video Processing for Multimedia Dance/Theatre" (ICMC, 2003)