Words by Irina Baconsky
Defining dance can seem intuitive – it is, before all else, formulated movement. A movement which can be creative, impulsive, architected, orchestrated. It can be solitary or collective, rehearsed or improvised. But gaze deeper, beyond the myriad of its possible kinetic and aesthetic declinations, and you’ll find that dance doubles as an unmatched portal for synergy.
It’s in this spirit of synergy that the latest collaboration between Telekom Electronic Beats and Berlin-based choreographer, director and dancer Franka Marlene Foth has been brought to life. Produced under the direction of Uwe Flade, for the second instalment of the multimedia The Cube experience, the collaboration reworks one of Foth’s video works released early this year on Nowness into a 360 degree, multisensory and multichapter immersive exploration of movement with (and through) sound.
Foth has spent years finessing her symbiotic relationship to the multitude of elements feeding into her kinetic ecosystem – the first one of which is, naturally, music. “That’s the reason why I – and, probably, most dancers– dance: music,” she says. And, indeed, dance is perhaps the most reactive of artforms. “The pictures of what I want to form begin to take shape in my head in reaction to the music – not simply of my desire to dance. My creative expression will operate symbiotically, in harmony or in rejection of the sound I hear. So I have to be inspired by the music.”
To honour the musical backbone of the project and of the cathartic experience of contemporary dance itself , Foth joined forces with Berlin-based sound designer, composer and producer Marlon Beatt, soundtracking the virtual experience by taking cues from the potent fusion between music and bodies underpinning the ethos of club culture – a space of intense interconnectivity, interdisciplinarity, exchange and alteration through communal coalescence.
As with electronic music production, Beatt’s ambition was first and foremost atmospheric, using sound to enhance Foth’s choreography, drawing the viewer in through into total sensory captivation. “I worked with various unconventional soundscapes, experimenting with a lot of field sounds, weird noises, and experimental music to create different dynamics and moods – the goal was to combine a certain roughness with a softer, foamy, energy.”
“The multisensorial facets of the dance performance was also conveyed by the clothes, which were designed by Ottolinger” continues Foth. “The styling was essential to the piece, but subdued. I wanted the clothes to speak to the spirit of the piece, facilitate and enhance the dance, without distracting too much from the movement itself.”
The sonic and sartorial focus aren’t the only thread tying Foth and Beatt’s The Cube experience to world-building powers of the club space. The architectural dimension – and its facilitation of immersion– are equally key components of the non-linear, alternating sequences of virtual deep dives forming the 360 degree experience. Here, architecture and spatial storytelling are present in intangible, conceptual and metaphorical ways.
“Thinking spatially is essential to me; generally, I like big, empty spaces. I find high ceilings inspiring,” says Foth of her usual approach to her choreographies’ scenery. “But for this video work, I really wanted the space to be as empty and pared back as possible, so that the user experiencing the Cube can be as drawn as possible into the movement. It was super important to have an empty space to focus more on what the performers are doing.”
Overarchingly, Foth’s plastic take on the notion of space has allowed her to experiment with the limitless possibilities of the virtual as a haven for democratised creativity, and, much like the club space itself, an accessible sensory immersion open to everybody. “What I loved the most about making this video works is exploring more possibilities of bringing in new perspectives, creating something that feels fresh and fluid.” Fresh, fluid and chameleonic – true to the slippery DNA of dance itself.
Music: Marlon Beatt
Dancers: Camille Jackson, Janan Laubscher, Amie-Blaire Chartier, Yi-Wei Tien
Director of photography: Julian Jonas Schmitt
Editor: Nicola Powell
Colorist: Delfina Mayer
Creative direction & production: WAF GMBH
Implementation: 21st Digital
360 VR compositing: Martin Backhaus