Imagine waking up to the sound of heavy rock music to see, amid a colorful, dreamlike landscape, a group of dancers twisting and turning, controlling mysterious sounds through screens of flashing light. You are watching part of “The Dreamer,” a nine-piece multimedia performance that has come to fruition through the collaboration of Steve Joslin, a first year Media Art Student at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, and University Alum, Christina Sears-Etter, the artistic director of People Dancing, an Ann Arbor dance company.

The Dreamer and the Dreamed

Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m.
The Duderstadt Center, Video Studio
Free

Composer, percussionist, programmer and Apple developer, Joslin is a man of many hats. He has worked before with Sears-Etter, who has choreographed and performed in past performances. He uses 2-D and 3-D technology to create visuals that go along with his percussion and the dancer’s performance.

His set-up, as he put it, is “fairly unique”, consisting of an assortment of drums, varying in control and sound. The dancers surround the set, exploring the stage that also features changing, large-scale projections of Joslin’s creation. In Sears-Etter’s words, the environment has “kind of a creepy feeling to it.”

The inspiration for the performance comes from Joslin and Sears-Etter’s joint interest in the dream world.

“I’ve always sort of been fascinated by dreams,” Joslin said. “I was doing a lot of reading of surrealists, I read a lot of Freud … (Freud) explains each dream as having a purpose … that was really the catalyst for this (work). Every song in the show is representative of one of these types of dreams.”

This surrealist show has been in the works since last summer, when Joslin wrote the first song called “Untying the Knot.” The title matches the theme of the piece and portrays how we, as humans, tend to get naturally tangled up in things, whether it’s interpersonal or man versus woman. It’s about trying to undo those conflicts, explained Joslin. As described by Sears-Etter, the dancers move from complicated patterns and poses to more peaceful and balanced ones as time moves on.

One of Joslin’s main goals in the creative process was to create a very structured improvisation.

“This show is more about the vibe overall … I went out of my way not to write music or parts for everyone but to set these arrangements where we could all kind of play and explore within the time frame of a song,” Joslin said.

For the dancers, this means they will be improvising as well.

“Each of the pieces have moments of improv in them,” Sears-Etter said. “There will also be some improvisation to relate with the audience.”

The dancers will also interact with a light and fabric fixture, as well as a Kinect system, or motion sensing input device.

Joslin added: “I have created this … system where the Kinect will pick the dancer up and identify her — I’m really just using her hands — and what you’re seeing is these particle system visuals that follow her hands … making music, different sounds or pitches as (the hands) go up or down.”

Though a lot happens at once in the show, the overarching narrative is well engrained in the performance, according to Sears-Etter. The rehearsal process, which started in January, and the presence of the narrative, has really changed the outcome of the piece.

“A lot of times, making time to converse and bounce ideas off each other is really valuable. It’s really organic, things just grew. (Joslin) is not traditional, we have that in common,” Sears-Etter said. “It helps us to move on into new frontiers.”

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