ArtsATL > Dance > Georgia Tech’s Ferst Center melds dance and technology for its innovative 2010-11 dance series

Georgia Tech’s Ferst Center melds dance and technology for its innovative 2010-11 dance series

Five thousand ping-pong balls will greet audiences at the Ferst Center for the Arts next April, in the world premiere of “FILTER,” by choreographer and media artist Jonah Bokaer.

Not yet 30, Bokaer is earning an international reputation for his innovative multimedia works that meld contemporary choreography with striking images using motion capture technology and 3-D computer animation. “FILTER” will be the culmination of the Ferst Center’s new ARTech residency program and will cap off its 2010-11 dance series.

The April performance will also feature Bokaer’s critically acclaimed “REPLICA” (above, photo by Daniel Arsham), which was commissioned by the National Academy of Sciences and received its U.S. premiere last summer at the Harmon Center in Washington, D.C. Set to an electronic score by Alexis Georgopoulos, two dancers — Bokaer and Judith Sanchez Ruiz, clothed in black — interact in and around an 8-by-8-foot white box designed by Daniel Arsham. At times, the box’s outer surface becomes a projection screen where a film — run in reverse — shows a man tearing down a wall. As the film runs, pieces of the wall are torn apart from the inside out.

During Bokaer’s four weeklong residencies (plus a half-week before the performance), he’ll collaborate with students and faculty on campus and in area schools. Bokaer will work with Georgia Tech’s Music Technology program within the College of Architecture and will be given ample use of a motion capture technology lab in the school’s Interactive Computing Department.

ARTech is part of Ferst Center director George Thompson’s mission to further engage the Georgia Tech community and the Atlanta community through Ferst performances and arts education programs. The residency program is designed to explore the connection between art and technology. Each year, the Ferst will invite an artist to visit the campus several times while developing new work that integrates science and technology into the artist’s creative process.

For Thompson, 2010-11 is his inaugural season at the Ferst, a mix of old-school entertainment and interesting performers, especially in dance. The 21-event season will open Sept. 11 with Debbie Reynolds in what’s billed as “an evening of music and comedy.” Pop crooner Michael Bolton and Melinda Doolittle (from “American Idol”) are headliners in the music series. The jazz and comedy series are strong components. The complete calendar will be up soon on the Ferst Web site.

But this article is about dance, and a different example of Thompson’s approach to programming will be Dance Dialogues. For each performance, Thompson, a former dancer himself, will lead a post-performance discussion between audience and dancers.

Also, the center’s opening dance troupe, Diavolo, will be in residence for half a week before its Oct. 15 performance. The Los Angeles-based company explores how humans interact with architecture through a daring, theatrical mixture of dance, gymnastics and story. They’ll teach Tech students some of their trust exercises. And to bridge the gap between audience and performers, students will watch the troupe load in the giant cube shapes, pyramids and other moving sets that are integral to its choreography.

On November 12, the Lily Cai Chinese Dance Company (at left) will present a blend of ancient Chinese dance forms with American modern dance and ballet.

Step Afrika! will perform on January 29. Based in Washington, D.C., it’s the first professional company devoted to performing the energetic, rhythmically intricate African-American form, stepping.

On March 5, Doug Varone and Dancers bring contemporary choreography that’s deeply connected to the fluid, expressive and human aspect of movement, from its quiet subtleties to its expansive breadth.


Nrityagram Dance Ensemble (above) will perform March 27, blending the spirituality, sensuality and mythic power of classical Indian dance forms with contemporary ideas.

Finally, it’s Jonah Bokaer on Saturday, April 2.

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