When Dito Van Reigersberg first entered the cube, as the set for the 2010 Live Arts Festival show TAKES has come to be called, he had just stepped off a plane to an early rehearsal in Los Angeles.
“I come into this space, watching my image fly around, and I almost ralphed,” Dito says.
“We called it the blender,” says Nichole Canuso, who, along with Lars Jan, conceived and will direct TAKES.
“And I had to be the sacrificial daiquiri,” says Dito, who will perform alongside Nichole in the dance duet.
Lucky for me, when I stepped into the cube—a four-walled space where the echoes of a room are set up, and where the walls are 10-foot by 20-foot scrims—I had just strolled down the street from the office to the Festival Hub. Nichole and Lars Jan, creators and directors of TAKES, invited me into the space, where, thankfully, I did not ralph. I did, however, experience the strange sensation of moving in reaction to slightly delayed video of my movement.
“I’m interested in having the audience step inside of the work,” says Nichole. “In a gallery [setting], you pay attention to how you move through the space.”
During the Festival, audience members have the opportunity to experience the box for themselves. (Reservations here—it’s free.) In its installation mode, Lars says that visitors will wear an iPod with a track that tells them what to do, creating a dance with two people at a time.
“It’s a mix of formal instruction of where to be and a playful interaction between you and the other person.”
But the box isn’t just for playtime, it’s for showtime too.
TAKES examines how we remember and use our past experiences, integrating live video projections of the dancers, at different delays, that force the characters to engage with and confront their past actions. As I photographed immediate past moments of myself projected when I was in the box, so Nichole and Dito will dance with each other, and with their film selves as well.
“The video in this piece is in real time,” Lars says. “Because all the video is live, it’s an extension of the choreography. You watch for angle, you also choreograph for these rectangles,” Lars says.
According to Lars, when working with live video projection, the choreography is about both the movement of bodies, and the movement of cameras. While the cameras in the box are fixed, the shots are not. Imagine that each bit of video is a rectangle floating in the box—a rectangle that outlines what’s projected on the scrim—and the placement of those rectangles determines not the broader physical movement associated with dance, but the smaller movements you associate with acting for film.
“You can be both big and abstract,” Nichole says. “But your finger and eyebrow can give a different message at the same moment. It taps into a way I want to perform. The puzzle of figuring out where you are in all three cameras kind of relaxed me.”
“It feels like giving a live performance and a filmic performance at the same time. I’m starting to learn how small you have to be,” says Dito, the man behind the sweeping gestures of Martha Graham Cracker.
When performing, Nichole says, “I’m looking at Dito, thinking about the flat plane and live bodies. I know the space well enough to know that I’m making [a specific] picture. I feel like I’m able to use that as another tool. I know when I’m disappearing from the camera. I can think about my live body framing the screen.”
“There are so many compositional possibilities,” Lars says. “You’re in this ebb and flow no matter what.”
During TAKES, the audience is encouraged to move about the performance space. Still, for people who settle in, the experience will be strong.
“You can see all four screens,” Nichole says, “so you don’t feel like you’re missing something.”
“There are so many levels in the video system,” Lars says. “Where you put your eyes in the space is another editing layer.”
“We made the show for the 10 to 15 percent of people who want to move around in it,” Lars says. “These are another layer. Once you see a bit you can project yourself to the spaces in the room. So you surround the piece instead of being inside it.”
TAKES, in the end, is about examining our memory and experience and the role we take in constructing them out of the bits and pieces—our own little film takes—of our lives.
“It puts editing in cold focus,” Nichole says. “We edit the things we say, do, and make.”
The piece was inspired by the Jorge Borges short story “The Garden of Forking Paths.”
“The images in the story remind me of what the show looks like. All the choices you’ve ever made would be floating around in space. I’m not trying to portray all of those visions. But what if each line [of choices] was just as equal? The editing highlights that.”