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Raves in Outer Space 

Cerebral dance company mixes participation, performance, and technology

Wednesday, Mar 28 2001
The marriage of art and technology is currently in vogue -- even if tech stocks aren't. From SFMOMA's exhibit of futuristic cyberart to Chris Finley's computer-generated paintings to the overwhelming currency of drum 'n' bass and electronica, timely testaments to the technological revolution abound. The techies have transcended the confines of the business world, snaking their way into the fickle world of art and even into the primarily technophobic environs of the local dance community. Jodi Lomask -- founder and artistic director of the Oakland-based troupe of "interdisciplinary movement artists" Capacitor (named after an electricity-storing device) -- has long viewed art and technology as fitting bedfellows. She develops that position further in the company's latest production, Flux Capacitor. Lomask calls it a "fully integrated interactive audience experience" that is part site-specific performance and part dance rave.

\rOne of the few dance companies with its own think tank (the Capacitor Lab), Capacitor nimbly crosses genre lines and subcultures, collaborating alternately with the hottest DJs and visual artists, as well as with scientists. While Lomask's intellectual preoccupation with the impact of technology and the cosmos on human experience informs all of her choreography, the troupe's work also assimilates more popular forms -- the nightclub, the rave, the circus -- taking dance out of pristine theaters and back to the streets, mingling "scientific discovery with performance."

Along with videos from the Hubble Space Telescope and planetariums, Flux Capacitor incorporates elements from the troupe's last full-evening show, Within Outer Spaces. Although Lomask describes the performance as an exploration of "the Earth's relationship to outer space and how [humans] on Earth communicate with whatever's out in space," it also has a less cerebral purpose: to get club kids and ravers to groove and dance alongside performers, re-creating the communal environments and good-time vibes of old-school raves. In this variation, feral, limber dancers wearing flaming headdresses and carrying neon rods will cavort, bound, leap, and dangle from heavily rigged structures using an assortment of bungee cords, ropes, and pulleys. While these dancers fly through the air and hang like bats from the ceiling, DJs Ellen Ferrato, Chameleon, Kramer, and Ethan Miller will mix breakbeat, techno, and house with original abstract compositions created by the electronic composer Thomas Day and cellist Alex Kort.

As with any performance that requires audience participation, the results will likely be uneven. Lomask imagines that "there will be times when [the audience will] want to stop and watch," and other times when they won't. But this show is like coming home: Lomask and her dancers started dancing in clubs back when experimental performances were little more than supplementary sideshows. Working in a theater allows her to control the environment, but she still misses the "mind frame of a dance party and an audience that responds in the moment." Whatever the result, Lomask stands by her belief that "the role of an artist is to stay current and create portraits of the society we're living in." In this case, the portraits will move with the times.

About The Author

Lisa Hom


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