As I read Ready Player One many themes and ideas came to mind but the ideas of Identity and the element that Chance plays in our lives were the two that I focused on for the Ready Player One Interactive project.
Each dancer is unique but often in dance the dancers are required to move in unison – all together in the same time and taking the same amount of space even though some might be taller or shorter than others.
For this piece I wanted to incorporate each dancer’s creativity and individuality. I gave them the same movement problem:
Imagine you are inside a 3-D cube formed by the 26 letters of the alphabet. Spell the following sentences by touching the corresponding letter in the cube with any part of your body:
Be who you are
I am different
You are unique
I am me
Each dancer spelled these same sentences a different way. This became their signature movement phrase (sort of like each avatar’s individual costume).
Then, the dancers taught their movement to everyone else – this is similar to everyone playing the same game but with their own approach and flair.
While the dancers were in the studio creating movement in silence two composers were writing movement phrases based on these ideas. Separate in time and space but with the same end goal – sort of like the quest in the Ready Player One where everyone is trying to find the keys.
In a game, there are unknown elements of chance that can change the outcome of the game. The audience is the unknown element in this performance event. Members of the audience will chose the sequence of phrases that each dancer will perform as well as the order in which the musical phrases will be played.
We plan to perform the dance at least twice with the two different pieces of music written by K-State music composition students. Each time different groups in the audience will select the order of the music for the musicians and the sequence of dance phrases for each dancer. If the audience members and performers are having a good time, we can try a few other variations during the presentation.
There are seven basic elements; five dance phrases and two musical compositions. These can be combined in many different ways. For example the audience members could select the following sequence for their “Avatars”:
Dancer/Avatar 1 – ABABC
Dancer/Avatar 2 – EBCDD
Dancer/Avatar 3 – CDEAB
Dancer/Avatar 4 – AEECB
Dancer/Avatar 5 – DCABE
Music/Avatar 1 – DCECA
My math isn’t that great any more but I think the formula for the above set of 5 dancers and 1 musical ensemble is 5 to the 6th power in terms possible versions that could be made for the dancers and musicians to perform. Any math wizards want to chime in with exactly how many options there are?
In most dance and music performances the ensembles practice a specific set of phrases in a specific order and that is what they perform for the audience. For this event the performers must be willing to deal with the unknown in the moment of performance. The musicians and dancers will know the structured elements (the musical and movement phrases) but audience members will set the sequence immediately before each performance of the piece. Then, we will all see how it “plays” out!
This is similar to a football game where each team has specific “plays” they’ve practiced (in dance we call them movement phrases and we rehearse them). During the game both teams interfere with and try to mess up by the each other’s offensive maneuvers. The players have to improvise within the structure of their “practiced plays” to reach the goal of making touchdowns or field goals.
Join us on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at 7:00 p.m. in Forum Hall for this event. The evening will be informal with opportunities for the audience to dialogue with the performers about the process.
Laura Donnelly is an Assistant Professor in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance