POTSDAM — Performance halls are closed and stages are dark, but SUNY Potsdam students of dance are finding ways to share their creativity nonetheless. Merging their efforts with student videographers and using new tools from media arts, student choreographers are launching a virtual dance concert series titled “Media Dance Works Series.” The event takes the place of a concert dance production normally presented in the Performing Arts Center each December.
The students will be presenting three short films on the first Friday of each month for the rest of the semester. Works premiere at 7:30 p.m. on first Fridays, on Oct. 2, Nov. 6 and Dec. 4, online at Cyndance.org and on the SUNY Potsdam Department of Theatre and Dance Facebook page. A preview event will be hosted on the site, whose online dance instruction has received national attention.
Media dance — it’s the new thing, but the artistic quest is what it has always been: to share a broad spectrum of emotion and experience, regardless of the medium.
“Media dance takes us toward a new definition of arts in the age of technology,” said Assistant Professor of Dance Cynthia DuFault, who leads the project. “Dancers are learning a new medium to choreograph in, and media artists are translating their perspective into dance. We have retooled during these COVID times so students can take the virtual element and apply it to their craft. The best part is they are truly embracing working with media, and they are enjoying the process.”
Student choreographer Taylor Post ‘21 is using media dance to share the struggle of loss. Her piece is titled “03/05/2020,” the date her grandfather passed away, and a time that coincided with the nation’s realization of the crisis it faced, with an out-of-control virus.
“That month was truly the hardest time of my life,” Post said. “I went through stages of disbelief, depression, confusion and complete numbness. But accepting that he was gone was truly the hardest stage. Unfortunately, we all must deal with this kind of loss throughout our lives.”
To pay tribute to her grandfather and to reflect the way the world has changed, Post decided to choreograph a dance at the foot of a North Country waterfall. Figuring out how to safely execute the piece in this difficult location was challenging, but the work nourished a grieving process. And it is arresting to watch.
“The hardest barrier that I faced during this process was the flood of emotions I felt every time I got to work,” Post said. “Without the understanding, support and friendship of my cast and crew, this piece would have never been able to reach its full potential.”
The video dance projects are driving new collaboration between dancers, choreographers and aspiring filmmakers. This week, choreographer Aicha Konate ‘21 and media arts student Taner DuFault ‘21 arrived on location, prepped the camera and music and spent three hours with soloist Tatianna Montemorano ‘22, shooting more than 100 different shots for the three-minute video. Aicha explained the meaning behind each movement and Taner suggested ways to shoot the footage. Then they spent another five hours in the lab, putting clips together, editing video and audio, with Taner suggesting ways of editing and using effects to intensify the intention of the work.
Students rehearse for the video performances both on Zoom and in the campus dance studios, and upload their works-in-progress every few days to their online class forum for peer feedback and instructor evaluation.
DuFault has been a strong advocate for media dance and virtual dance instruction. She gave a presentation about her remote instruction techniques at the REMOTE: Connected Faculty Summit hosted by Arizona State University, which was attended by 50,000 faculty and administrators during the summer of 2020.