In this day and age of technology, our cell phones are almost always within arms reach. We turn to our mobile devices for news, entertainment, social media, work, emails, text messages, cat videos… the list goes on and on. Technology has made our lives easier in a number of ways, but innovation comes at a cost. Several studies have shown that Americans spend an average of three hours per day glued to their cell phones, but that number can climb upwards of eight hours a day when computers and television are added into the mix. All of this time spent in front of screens has presented a slew of new issues, ranging from physical repercussions (new workplace health issues include spine and vision problems) to issues with face-to-face social interactions. We are constantly overwhelmed with news alerts and notifications, often making it difficult to keep up and/or prioritize the information we consume. How do we begin to alleviate these problems, especially as technology becomes evermore integral to our lives?
The first step to solving any problem is to analyze it, and that is what the artists at Project Bound Dance are doing in their latest evening-length work, Notified. In this work, Bound Co-Artistic Directors Ashley Deran and Emily Loar explore how the hyper-consumption of media affects us. DancerMusic Dance Editor Kristi Licera had the opportunity to speak with Deran about her collaboration with Loar, as well as learn about the sound design for Notified and how it adds to the overall impression and presentation of the work. Here’s what she told us:
Together we’ve explored ways to blend our work into a unified artistic voice and create dance that reflects and responds to social issues that resonate with both of us, like the topics examined in “Notified.”
Kristi Licera: Last season, Project Bound Dance brought founding member Emily Loar into a new role: Co-Artistic Director. In past productions, DancerMusic has had the chance to experience Loar on stage with Bound, both as a soloist and in ensemble work – performing her own choreography as well as yours. Can you tell us more about working with Loar, especially as it pertains to the evolution of your artistic relationship? What was it like working with her as a dancer versus collaborating with her on a creative/leadership level?
Ashley Deran: When Ericka Vaughn Byrne and I founded Project Bound Dance in 2013, we knew that collaboration and experimentation would be basic tenets of the company’s mission. Having a co-artistic directing team is what makes Bound unique. We agreed that when it was time for Ericka to leave Chicago, it would be integral for the company to maintain its dual-voice structure. We looked to Emily Loar, who having been with the company since its inception, shared our philosophies and had a strong sense for our movement aesthetic. At the time Emily was also producing compelling solo work as an independent choreographer and I felt that her vision would only enhance Bound’s repertory. Thankfully she agreed.
When Emily stepped into the role of Co-Director, it felt like a hard reset of my creative process. In the strangest way, working with a new artist is no different than dating. Emily’s movement is incredibly detail-oriented and introspective, where I tend to gravitate towards grand and percussive movement that eats up space. It took us several “play dates” of generating movement, agreeing to disagree on some things, and finding common threads before we agreed that we had ideas with potential.
For me, the most exciting part about working collaboratively is that you have someone by your side to play devil’s advocate. Emily and I consistently say that “Why?” is our favorite question to ask each other in the studio.
Ashley: For me, the most exciting part about working collaboratively is that you have someone by your side to play devil’s advocate. Emily and I consistently say that “Why?” is our favorite question to ask each other in the studio. We are constantly working for an equal give and take of ideas. The constructive feedback keeps me humble, grounded, and strengthens my choreography where it is most underdeveloped.
Our first year together was certainly a year of transition, but it also allowed us to carve a clear path forward for Bound. Together we’ve explored ways to blend our work into a unified artistic voice and create dance that reflects and responds to social issues that resonate with both of us, like the topics examined in Notified. We hope that by offering viewers the opportunity to examine their own perceptions of social identity, we can bring awareness to differences and commonalities, fostering a greater sense of understanding, acceptance, and community.
When some audience members may not be as familiar with dance, music can be a common denominator that helps make the performance as a whole more accessible.
Kristi: The score for Notified features an original piece by Erica Ricketts (NY), as well as a mixture of existing music. Having a mixed score has the potential to add incredible dimension to choreography, but the wrong mix can leave both audience and performer feeling lost and confused. Can you tell us more about how you curated the score for Notified? What were some of the challenges you faced as you worked to marry the music and movement?
Ashley: Collecting music for an evening-length work is both daunting and incredibly rewarding. When some audience members may not be as familiar with dance, music can be a common denominator that helps make the performance as a whole more accessible. Emily and I knew at the beginning of this process that we wanted to be clear and up front with our audience that this dance is a reflection on technology. We wanted the persistent boops and beeps that our phones make to be at the foreground of the sound score, and for that we turned to sound designer Erica Ricketts. Pairing these strange sound effects with relentless metronome beat adds another layer of anxiety and tension to the performance.
In an ideal creative process, we would have loved to have had original sound created for the whole piece, but in this instance, Emily and I chose to piece together existing sound to compliment Erica’s initial creation. “Notified” pairs pop culture with sweeping, scenic sound, mimicking scrolling through your social media feed with the sound on. We have created the soundscape to change drastically and abruptly, varying from a silly calypso groove to a YouTube how-to video and back again. Choices like recordings of ringing phones, notifications and voicemail messages drive home the more literal narrative aspects of the work. Ultimately, the hardest part of the job is finding music that feels relevant to our current experiences but will also be accessible to a broad swath of people now and in the future.
Project Bound Dance presents Notified October 17 & 18, both evenings at 7:30pm. Performances will take place at Links Hall (3111 N. Western Ave, Chicago). Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door.
To purchase tickets visit notified.brownpapertickets.com.
Each performance will also include a screening of The One Hour Project, an educational experiment in collaboration and concision that gives artists 60 minutes to create a 60 second dance film. Designed as a blind date between choreographers, dancers and video artists, T1HP seeks to foster community and dialogue across artistic disciplines while encouraging further exploration of unique Chicago spaces. This year’s featured artists include Laura David, Sam Fink, Kasey Foster, Tate Glover, Breana Jehning, Jordan Kunkel, Robin Lee, Maxine Patronik, Kristan Saloky, Olivia Serrano and Timothy Tsang.
Learn more about the company and its upcoming projects at projectbounddance.com.
Here’s a look at this year’s The One Hour Project, featuring DancerMusic Dance Editor Kristi Licera (Choreography by Sam Fink, Video/Editing by Ashley Deran).