Lizzie Leopold on how dancers are people. and so are audience members.

Ok, so, you might notice some changes around here… I'm in the middle of a massive re-build of the website!  Unfortunately, that means that we're is in a continual state of virtual chaos.  So exuse the "dust", if you will, while I talk briefly about a project that couldn't wait until the web changes are done….

I always appreciate an opportunity to chat, vitrually or actually with Choreographer/Dance Scholar Lizzie Leopold.  A PRODUCE alum, I was excited to hear that her upcoming project includes fellow PRODUC-ers HARD R.  Photography, dance, sound, and tweets all come together this weekend, and again in December, in what has been dubbed A Correct Likeness.

At the crux of Leopold's concept is a long-term collaboration with photographers Arn Klein and Matthew Gregory Hollis (and later on, Jessie Young). 

Photography and dance are not new neighbors.  But photography is a new choreographic tool for me. The element of surprise that is revealed in their photographs… seemed to open up a space for me that I didn't know was there.  There were parts of my dancers that I had never seen before.  The still photograph seemed to animate a vulnerability that the furious, athletic dancing was so adept at hiding.  

-Lizzie Leopold

Though dance is an exposing art-form in many respects, the nature of our practice can sometimes shroud the person.  The roles that dancers play (even if it's not a role, per se) place our instruments, that is, our bodies, as the focus, and the dancer herself sometimes gets lost behind the high kicks and big jumps.

That's weird… especially since so many dances are about love, and people, and interpersonal relationships.  

But Leopold found a closer connection to the people, rather than dancers, she works with on a weekly basis by accessing this new medium.  

Dance is an ephemeral artform in that it exists in fleeting, unrepeatible moments of live performance.  By using her dancers as the subjects of photographs, there is the staying power of a static image that dance simply can't provide.

So there's that. 

But The Leopold Group is adding a-whole-other layer to this idea by completely rejecting the traditional mores surrounding audience etiquette, inviting viewers to document the show in the moment through cameras, camera phones, video, tweets, or whatever else they feel like doing. Re-imagining the audience experience is a topic that's near and dear to my heart, and an essential aspect of PRODUCE, which Leopold, ironically, participated in this past July.

I'm not sure why dance has been so resistant to this.  Ok, so it IS annoying to be in a dark, crowded theatre and have glowing LED screens all around you.  Then there's the thought of how dance IS so ephemeral… what are we potentially missing by glancing down at a screen and tweeting or watching a dance through a 3" x 4" screen? 

However, dance may die a slow and undocumented death if we aren't pushing the boundaries of what we allow audience members to do, or if we refuse to acknowledge the continual need for instant and public gratification via social media.  Leopold, however, is banking on the novelty wearing off, and quickly. 

"My hope is that … the audience will be able to reflect on the missed present moments because they are so concerned with the captured past ones. The acting of capturing will revealing how much we are missing."

Sort of like the soccer dad that spend so much time filming his kid's life that he misses actually seeing it.

Check out The Leopold Group in the premiere of A Correct Likeness this weekend, and again Dec 1-2, at Defibrillator Gallery (1136 N. Milwaukee Ave).  Tickets available on Brown Paper Tickets.

Photo 1: Matthew Gregory Hollis / Photo 2: Arn Klein