Walker Art Center and Northrop present
Kinetic Light DESCENT
World Premiere Virtual Screening
& Artist Talk
December 3, 2020 8pm CST
DESCENT by Kinetic Light
Researched, directed, and conceived by
Choreography & Performance
ALICE SHEPPARD, in collaboration with LAUREL LAWSON
Lighting & Video Design
Costume & Makeup Design
Music: Jeanrenaud, Joan. Visual Music. With performers PC Muñoz and William
Winant. Deconet Records 2016. With the kind permission of the composer.
“Song of Songs” by Karen Tanaka is used by arrangement with G. Schirmer Inc.
publisher and copyright owner. “Empty Infinity” by Cornelius Dufallo. Journaling.
Innova Recordings 2012, is used by kind permission of the composer.
“Waiting,” by Joan Jeanrenaud. Strange Toys. Talking House Records 2008.
With the kind permission of the composer.
Music Editing by Dan Wool.
Video design and projection images inspired by selected sculptures of Auguste
Rodin and created by Michael Maag. Original images provided by Stanford
University’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center For Visual Arts. Additional video
courtesy of EMPAC / Eric Brucker and Ryan Jenkins.
RAMP Design Team: Sara Hendren, Yevgeniya Zastavker, and Katie Butler, Daniel Daugherty, Duncan Hall, Andrew Holmes, Erica Lee, Scott Mackinlay, Apurva Raman, March Saper, Alexander Scott, Kimberly Winter, Rachel Yang, Jingyi Xu, with support from Olin College.
Ramp Engineering and Fabrication: Rooster Productions, LLC a small employee-owned scene shop located in Martinez, CA.
MICHAEL MAAG and ALICE SHEPPARD
DISABILITY DANCE WORKS, LCC. dba KINETIC LIGHT
THE EMPAC VIDEO TEAM
ERIC BRUCKER, Lead Video Engineer with MICK BELLOW and RYAN JENKINS
Audimance Content Sound Designer/Mixer
Location: The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Troy, New York.
The online performance will be audio described and captioned.
The Artist Conversation will include ASL interpretation and CART.
Kinetic Light films will also be audio described and captioned.
An audio version of these program notes will also be available.
On behalf of Kinetic Light, it is my joy to share DESCENT with you. If you are seeing DESCENT for the first time, welcome! If you have seen DESCENT before, I hope you will fall in love with Venus and Andromeda again.
We celebrate the Northrop at the University of Minnesota and the Walker Art Center and thank them for their creativity in imagining a virtual residency.
Tonight’s show breaks ground on several fronts. While we’ve always loved livestreaming our performances, we never considered that online would one day be the primary way of sharing our beloved work with you. That we can make this film at all is due to the brilliance and generosity of the folks at the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center. During our stay there, we began our practice of accessible livestreaming with a five camera shoot. We were then able to use that footage as the basis of what you will see tonight.
Since its very beginning, DESCENT has become a kind of proving ground for the intertwined practices of access and audio description. We are proud to offer tonight’s film in multiple accessible modes.
We invite you to experience DESCENT as both a sonic and a visual art form.
And then, there’s the ramp. Created specifically for this piece, the ramp is an artistic object and design experiment in kinetic potential and embodiment. It is also an active partner in the dance, generating new movements and new lines; it is not intended to be used functionally at all. The story of DESCENT is, in part, the story of the interactions of dancers and ramp.
DESCENT is also the story of Venus and Andromeda, the figures who lie intertwined in Auguste Rodin’s Toilette of Venus and Andromeda. No one knows why Rodin placed these two figures together; they do not belong to the same mythological worlds.
DESCENT dreams up a story for their love, using select Rodin sculptures as the basis of its movement vocabulary. As Kinetic Light’s artists embody the figures of Venus (traditionally interpreted as white) and Andromeda (described in classical texts as Ethiopian, but traditionally drawn as white), DESCENT counters the erasure of race in Western European histories of art.
DESCENT invites architects and designers to innovate at the edge of disability for maximum aesthetic and pleasurable expression of impairment instead of using technology to normalize, hide, or overcome. Kinetic Light is committed to access as being an integral part of our works, not a secondary accommodation. We invite artists and cultural works to think of access as an aesthetic.
A performance like this is made possible by many hearts and hands. I would like to send a heartfelt thank you to the Kinetic Light team, to our friends and families who cheered us on, to our funders and supporters, and to you, our audience. We are thrilled to share DESCENT with you.
– Alice Sheppard
In a world of sky and water, Andromeda and Venus meet. Andromeda discovers herself at the peak, frantic and guarded. Her spirit guide observes. As she cautiously explores her environment, she is grabbed from below by Venus and drawn in. Venus reemerges in her world, inhabiting her environment unperturbed. Following her spirit guide, she is gradually intrigued.
We see the ramp become itself. The waters undulate across its surface; rocks form; the ramp is alive.
As the spirit guides slip into their bodies, Venus and Andromeda meet in a different world. Venus pushes her desire behind her; Andromeda pleads with Venus. Under and over the ramp and their chairs, the dancers wrap themselves around each other, accepting and rejecting their connection.
Spirit guides and bodies intertwined, Venus chooses Andromeda; Andromeda accepts Venus. The ramp and spirit guides take them and turn them slowly, inevitably towards each other.
Andromeda and Venus yield to each other. Light and the ramp transport them to a dream space.
Upon their return, a separation rakes the lovers apart. Andromeda again retreats to the peak, pulling Venus up after her. The spirit guides separate from their bodies and observe. Each spying the other in their respective homelands, Andromeda and Venus seek to reconnect.
The spirit guides leave Andromeda’s and Venus’ bodies. Tossed and turned by the ramp, Venus and Andromeda have only each other.
ABOUT KINETIC LIGHT
Founded by Alice Sheppard in 2016, Kinetic Light is a project-based ensemble, working at the intersections of disability, dance, design, identity, and technology. Through nuanced investment in the histories, cultures, and artistic work of disabled people and people of color, we promote intersectional disability as a creative force and access as an aesthetic critical to creating transformative art and advancing the disability arts movement. Kinetic Light artists include Alice Sheppard, Laurel Lawson, Michael Maag, and Jerron Herman.
About the Artists
ALICE SHEPPARD is the Artistic Director of Kinetic Light, as well as a choreographer and dancer in the company. Accepting the outcome of a dare, Alice resigned her tenured professorship to train with Kitty Lunn and Infinity Dance Theater. After an apprenticeship, Alice joined AXIS Dance Company where she became a core company member, toured nationally, and taught in the company’s education and outreach programs. Since becoming an independent dance artist, Alice has danced in projects with Ballet Cymru/GDance, and Marc Brew Company in the United Kingdom. In the United States, she has worked with Marjani Forté, MBDance, Infinity Dance Theater, and Steve Paxton. As a guest artist, she has danced with AXIS Dance Company, Full Radius Dance, and MOMENTA Dance Company. Alice has also performed as a solo artist and keynote academic speaker throughout the United States.
A USA Artist, Creative Capital grantee, and Bessie Award-winner, Alice creates movement that challenges conventional understandings of disabled and dancing bodies. Engaging with disability arts, culture and history, Alice’s commissioned work attends to the complex intersections of disability, gender, and race. She was a 2018 AXIS Dance Company Choreo-Lab Participant made possible with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Her choreography has been commissioned by producers from KQED and UCLA as well as physically integrated companies such as CRIPSiE, Full Radius Dance, and MOMENTA Dance Company.
Her writing has appeared in the New York Times and such journals as Catalyst and Movement Research and Performance Journal.
LAUREL LAWSON is a choreographic collaborator, dancer, designer, and engineer with Kinetic Light. She is the primary costume and makeup designer, and in collaboration with Top End’s Paul Schulte designed the wheelchairs that she and Alice use in performance, as well as contributing other visual and technical design. She is also the product designer and lead for Audimance, the company’s app which revolutionizes audio description for non-visual audiences.
Realizing that dance combined her lifelong loves of art and athleticism, Lawson began her professional dance career with Atlanta’s Full Radius Dance in 2004. She continues to work with Full Radius Dance as well as Kinetic Light and her independent practice.
Laurel’s choreography is marked by intensive partnering and grounded technique. Bringing the nuance of disabled artistry, she creates work for all ensembles including nondisabled, disabled, and physically integrated companies. She often weaves together abstract and concrete themes with overarching mythological inspiration, with focus on engaging and immersive audience experience, and her work was recognized with a 2019-20 Dance/USA Artist Fellowship. Dance/USA Fellowships to Artists are made possible with generous funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
Beyond the studio, Laurel is the CTO and co-founder of CyCore Systems, a boutique engineering consultancy which specializes in solving novel, multi-realm problems of all sizes for a global clientele. A noted public speaker and teacher, she speaks on a range of technical topics as well as on leadership and executive practice, culture and equity, and how to cultivate creativity and drive innovation. Lawson is also a member of the USA Women’s Sled Hockey Team.
MICHAEL MAAG is the projection and lighting designer for Kinetic Light. Maag designs at the intersection of lighting, video, and projection for theatre, dance, musicals, opera, and planetariums across the United States. He sculpts with light and shadow to create lighting environments that tell a story, believing that lighting in support of the performance is the key to unlocking our audience’s emotions. Maag has built custom optics for projections in theaters, museums and planetariums; he also designs and builds electronics and lighting for costumes and scenery.
As a wheelchair user, Maag is passionate about bringing the perspective of a disabled artist to technical theatre and design. He is currently the Resident Lighting Designer at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. His designs have been seen on the Festival’s stages for the last 20 years, as well as at Arena Stage, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Utah Shakespearean Festival, Florida Studio Theatre, and many other places.
DISABILITY AESTHETICS FOR DESIGN
Wednesday, December 2, 3–4:15 pm
Free, registration recommended
Join in a conversation about disability aesthetics and design for performance. Learn about Kinetic Light’s work in production, projection, movement, and software design with Kinetic Light members Laurel Lawson (choreographic collaborator, dancer, designer, and engineer) and Michael Maag (production, lighting, and projection designer).
SHORT FILMS FEATURING REVEL IN
Monday, November 30, 6:30 pm
Free, registration recommended
Available for viewing online, this selection of short films co-curated by Alice Shepperd and Michael Maag (with assistance from curator Michael Walsh in the Walker’s Moving Image department) is focused on arts and disability. Featured in the program is Kinetic Light’s own riveting Revel In Your Body, which captures the artists’ stunning choreography in slow motion to reveal the joy of flight on wheels. The program also features three short films from the Walker’s Collection.
Revel In Your Body is a film featuring disabled dancers and Kinetic Light artists Alice Sheppard and Laurel Lawson. Set against the Atlanta skyline, this film takes high stakes wheelchair choreography into the site-specific playgrounds of parking ramps, metal railings, and breathtaking blue sky. Revel In Your Body is directed by Katherine Helen Fisher and choreographed by Shepard, with Lawson.
Making Where Good Souls Fear features gritty virtual reality footage from New York City streets and subways and beautifully-lit performance excerpts. This 11-minute documentary short by filmmaker Dahkil Hausif follows Sheppard as she cuts a pathway from street to stage and back, exploring her approach to choreography and disability arts along the way.
Wisp, the ground sighs takes place in the parks, gardens, meadows, and trees of Atlanta, Ashland, New York, and the Bay Area. This virtual dance creation explores togetherness and connection across distance. Wisp features dancers Alice Sheppard, Laurel Lawson, and Jerron Herman, with lighting (and a guest appearance) by Michael Maag.
Compiled almost entirely of extreme close-ups of people and animals, Bruce Baillie’s Valentin de las Sierras is an intimate portrait of working-class life in Chapala, Mexico. Baillie paired a telephoto lens with an extension tube off the back of the camera to create a very limited focal plane for this 1968 short on 16mm. This strategy, rarely used in film, achieves an immediacy necessary to capture the tenderness he feels for the village. The resulting footage focuses on the smallest details of an image at close range. To complement the visuals, the filmmaker parsed together a textured soundscape by layering clips of children laughing, mules clomping, and traditional guitar song. The film opens with an image of Baillie sitting in a tree next to a young Mexican boy as he recounts the ballad of Valentín de las Sierras, a Mexican revolutionary war hero. The short then flashes between the eyes and hands of young children at play, the daily duties of farmers at work in the field, and the aged face and fingers of Jose Santollo Nadiso, the blind musician who plays the corrido on his guitar. These intimately shot details are connected in a way that gently moves through the landscape without any disorientation.
In Mirandas Pennell’s Human Radio people dance in private moments of personal abandon across London in the summer of 2001. The film is the result of the director’s work with the first ten respondents to a local newspaper advertisement that she placed seeking ‘living-room dancers’ – people who love to dance behind closed doors.
Yvonne Rainer created the film version of Trio A in 1978. It was one of her most influential choreographed works, and was first presented in 1966 as part of the larger performance The Mind Is a Muscle, Part 1 at Judson Memorial Church. Rainer, Steve Paxton, and David Gordon performed the work simultaneously but not in unison. The piece demonstrates Rainer’s exploration of the body as an object belonging to a greater whole. It is comprised of a sequence of unpredictable movements that disregard the tempo of the music and instead unfold in continuous motion according to the internal pace of each dancer. Trio A also meditates on the gaze: the dancers always avert their eyes from direct confrontation with the audience by independently moving the head and closing the eyes or casting them downward.
KINETIC LIGHT ADMINISTRATION & PRODUCTION TEAM
Alice Sheppard, Artistic Director
Will Knapp, Director of Production
Tiffany Schrepferman, Production Stage Manager
Stephanie Byrnes Harrell, Production Stage Manager
Tim Smith, Technical Director
Tramaine Chelan’gat, Programs Manager
Melanie George, Dramaturg
rachel hickman, Creative Co-Conspirator
Morgaine DeLeonardis, Associate Producer of LAB
Mel Chua, Cultural & Technical Design Fellow
Shoshana Freund, Lighting Design Fellow
Consultants: Advance NYC, Benvenuti Arts, CyCore Systems, Mariclare Hulbert Consulting
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Kinetic Light DESCENT acknowledgments
DESCENT was made possible, in part, by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; General Operating support was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project with funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation; Production residency funded by New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The MAP Fund, supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Dance/NYC’s Disability. Dance. Artistry Fund, made possible by the Ford Foundation with additional support provided by the Mertz Gilmore Foundation; and the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University. Kinetic Light researched, developed and honed DESCENT with financial, administrative and residency support from the Dance in Process program at Gibney Dance with funds provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. DESCENT was also supported by Dancers’ Group’s CA$H grant program, the Awesome Foundation, Puffin Foundation West, Ltd., and the Yip Harburg Foundation.
The film premiere of DESCENT was made possible, in part, by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; and through a residency by Walker Art Center and Northrop at the University of Minnesota. This activity was supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency, and the National Arts and Disability Center at the University of California Los Angeles. Any findings, opinions, or conclusions contained herein are not necessarily those of the California Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Arts and Disability Center.
AUDIO DESCRIPTION FOR DESCENT
Kinetic Light is committed to an accessible equitable aesthetic experience for all audience members. AUDIMANCE, our signature app for audio description, was originally created for in-person DESCENT performances. The online film combines new audio description with specially-developed sound experiences (originally created for the AUDIMANCE app).
AUDIMANCE CONTENT CONTRIBUTORS
Advisor: Georgina Kleege
App Design and Development: CyCore
Systems / Laurel Lawson
Audio Description: George McRae
Poet: Eli Clare
Script: David Linton
Poem Sound Design: Dylan Keefe
EMPAC Spatial and Ramp Sound: Todd
Vos, Lead Audio Engineer
Sound: JM Creative Alchemy
Lead Audio Technologist: Javier Molina
Producer: Caitlin Robinson
Sound Designer: TK Broderick
Sound Mixer: Aaron Montoya-Moraga
Voices: Erin Deward, David Linton, Mary
Murphy, Ali Silva
Tactile Experience: Lisa Niedermeyer
Audimance and its contents are made possible in part by Creative Capital; the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation; the MAP Fund, supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; and the Mertz Gilmore Foundation.
- This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.