For a contemporary dance company to be dedicated to the exploration of technology, one would assume that it possesses some of the tools of the trade. It may therefore appear surprising to learn that Random Dance Company, one of the UK's leading explorers into the marriage of dance vocabulary and technology, only owns one High End Systems Cyberlight(R), 20 PAR cans, and 20 ETC Source Fours. It is hardly the ultimate equipment list when it comes to state-of-the-art lighting technology, yet this company under the guidance of choreographer Wayne McGregor has for the last several years been receiving rave critical reviews for its innovative fusion of movement and technology.
Lighting designer Lucy Carter has collaborated with McGregor for the past seven years, and in the early, lean years doubled as the company's technical manager until the desire to spread her artistic wings forced her to discard her tool bag and pursue the aesthetic elements of lighting. Carter explained that initially McGregor needed someone to provide the technical expertise to realize his visual ideas, though their relationship has since evolved into a stimulating partnership.
For the last few years the company has been working on a trilogy exploring "new technological advancements and the potential for an intimate interactivity with the human body." Prior to starting work on the trilogy, McGregor and Carter took a research trip to Japan to absorb its "culture of technology."
Carter found the experience exhilarating and returned home with renewed artistic vigor. "Wayne incorporates technology into every step of the process by creating phrases of movement on a computer which the dancers then learn. The physical movement merges with the virtual world and the edges become indistinguishable."
The creative team for this project has included a digital video artist, set designer, and an animator, all of whom contributed surfaces both real and virtual for Carter to light. "I don't have a lot of technology available to me, so at times I'm trying to create a virtual look with basic equipment. I play with shifting angles and the vertical space as well as the horizontal. I recreate computer-generated images with light, like bar codes and computer chips, but abstract it along the way."
The company's one Cyberlight earns its keep. "It gives us a form of kinetic light through its movement. I've scanned the stage with it like a photocopier or used it to x-ray a dancer. It adds a dimension that we wouldn't otherwise have." Carter also uses color boldly and says that her lighting can be seen and felt during a show as part of the total sensual performance experience.