Katherine Clifford ’14 shares her experiences with ZOOM, a piece by New York dance troupe ZviDance that made its Connecticut Premiere at the CFA Theater, last Friday, September 14.
ZviDance, a New York City-based dance company directed by Zvi Gotheiner, kicked off Wesleyan’s Center for the Art’s Performing Arts Series this weekend, September 14th and 15th, with its integrative and captivating piece, ZOOM.
This was the only performance I’ve been to where I could overtly use my cell phone during the performance, without feeling rude about texting. In fact, the audience members were urged to participate in the performance by taking cell phone pictures of the dancers and texting them to the number projected on the screen. These pictures were then integrated into the piece by being posted on the screen behind the dancers in a type of multi-media live-feed. There were also moments when the audience could text the dancers on stage. The texting conversations were projected on the screen as the dancer typed witty replies to text messages with his computer. At one point, the dancers even called the cell phones of several audience members who had submitted texts and invited them to come dance with them on stage.
The use of cell phones can often be a distraction and cause disengagement with one’s present surroundings. However, this piece was interesting, because using one’s phone actually allowed one to be engaged with the artistic and creative process. By texting photos and seeing my own photo projected on the screen, I felt like I was contributing to the performance, even if only in a minimal way. This was different than the typical mode of silently watching a performance in front of me; instead, a more participatory role was open to me as an audience member.
Through this backdrop of integrative media, there was brilliant dancing by seven company members, linking movement to various themes of technology and communication. According to Zvi Goetheiner in the pre-performance talk, the dancers were asked to improvise on different kinds of theoretical environments in constructing the piece; such as moving through a magnetic field, moving through cyberspace, and reflecting on the body as an extension of machine. This piece was “modern” in multiple sense of the term: in the style of dance and fluidity of the movement, in terms of integrating modern culture through the themes of technology and communication, and through the industrial-sounding, rhythmic beats of the music.
This deliberate incorporation of texting, technology, and media served the purpose of exposing the question of how technology affects communication and how modern relationships are transformed through texting and social networking. The last duet of the performance, for example, was about missed connection, and failed communication through texting. However, Zvi Gotheiner said in his pre-performance talk that this was not a commentary on whether technology and social networking makes us more or less connected than before. Instead, the goal was to reflect, rather than to judge, and to let the audience take away whatever message they want.
During the Q&A following the performance, an audience member brought up the point that she felt comfortable texting the dancers from the safety of her seat, but when she was called up to the stage, she felt uncomfortable. One of the dancers replied by noting that texting and social networking creates boundaries and barriers that we can hide behind, but it becomes scary to engage in real life. We are thus protected behind our phones, the internet, and digital information, but actual human contact can be frightening. The exploration of modes and quality of communication through movement and interaction with the audience was thus effective in stirring dialogue about these important themes impacting our modern time.