XL Video is supplying projectors to the Siobhan Davies Dance Company for their acclaimed "Birdsong" work, which has just started the first leg of its UK tour.
Siobhan Davies is one of the UK’s leading choreographers, with a career dating back to the early 1970’s. Davies passion stems from an interest in the dance medium itself–the way the human body moves, how it is composed, and what it can evoke. Davies works collaboratively with her dancers and relies on their experiences and imagination to contribute to the final choreography.
The production of the intimate "Birsong" is staged in the round, with the floor as the only solid surface on which the dancers could work. To Maximize the dramatic possibilities of the floor, two Barco G5 video projectors are used for overhead light, rigged pointing vertically downwards–via special brackets fabricated by XL.
"Birdsong" is a mixed media work that integrates light and sound, alongside movement. The 70-minute sound-scape is composed by Andy Pink, and artist David Ward was commissioned to produce special video artwork, further developing ideas of "light" for the work. Ward used the floor as his canvass and light as his paint.
For Davies, the subtleties and extremities of light and dark are one of the biggest and most suggestive dramatic areas utilized in the work. "The projection is essentially a subtext" she explains, "When the dancers are in the light, both they and the audience are very effected by it, but it’s not something of which you’re immediately aware. The light is encouraging everyone to live through those moments".
Projected light– lines, shafts, blocks of color and shape, and textures on the floor–work with the dancers and help define the space–as a live physical and fluid element of the work. Lighting also defines time. Shafts of light piercing the surface–dividing it and structuring it.
Much of Ward’s footage evolved from "hand" filming or photographing actual light sources like laser beams or LEDs, instead of computer generated art. He started work on the piece a year ago and has enjoyed it enormously, "The collaborative endeavour has been excellent".
Adrian Plaut, who’s worked with Davies on previous projects, skilfully designed the generic lighting to support the projected light. Coordinating the technicals is production manager Sam Collins – who used XL Video on his work with ARTANGEL. He also designed the video system in conjunction with XL’s Malcolm Mellows.
The projections fill a 33’ x 33’ light gray dancefloor in its largest format–and the whole video system is designed to be very adaptable for a variety of different venues. The ideal height is 39' with a 1:0.8 lens on the projectors, but in many places, they will have to be lower. To maximize height in the smaller spaces, they are touring a 3.3' x 5' mirror, which can be used with the projectors when rigged sideways, to bounce the image down onto the floor, therefore getting the machines at the maximum height.
Video playback material is stored on two Doremi hard drives and played back by Collins is mixing the show manually on a Sony XP. Most cues tie in to the sound track, but two sections are improvised live, with dancers responding to the lighting and video, all of it combining in an additional element of frission interwoven with the devised elements.
Malcolm Mellows comments, "It’s been fantastic to be involved with a company as prestigious as Siobhan Davies, and a work as imaginative as "Birdsong". Siobhan Davies and her team are really pushing the creative envelope, and putting new and fresh perspectives on the use of lighting."