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Christine Metz Howard
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Groundbreaking KU dance performance to show in NYC

Fri, 02/28/2014

LAWRENCE – An innovative University of Kansas performance that intertwines contemporary dance with video art is headed to New York City in March.

The piece, titled “human, next” is a collaboration between choreographer James Moreno, an assistant dance professor, and visual artist Benjamin Rosenthal, an assistant professor of expanded media. Covering new ground in the way that dance and digital media intersects, “human, next” examines a subject that isn’t often conveyed through dance: what it means to be human in a digital world.

“Dance is often described as the most human of performing arts because the body is the medium,” Moreno said. “So it makes things interesting when we question that and juxtapose real dancers with virtual bodies and ask the question, ‘What is humanity now’?”

The 12-minute piece, which premiered at the Lied Center in November, will be performed in New York City as part of the dance series the CURRENT SESSIONS: Volume IV, Issue 1. The performance, which will include four KU student dancers, will be March 8-9 at the venue Wild Project in the East Village. The CURRENT SESSIONS is a dance organization and presenting series that showcases innovative contemporary performances from up-and-coming and mid-career choreographers in biannual performances.

In “human, next” the dancers on stage interact with projected images of animated virtual bodies on the screen behind them. The score, created by Rosenthal, is composed of sounds from computer operating systems, including the familiar startup tone of a Mac. Throughout the piece, the live dancers and virtual bodies engage in shifting struggles for control. The audience is asked to question what is real and virtual.

“Those boundaries are becoming virtually indistinguishable, which we think is a really challenging conceptual position to negotiate,” Rosenthal said. “We are questioning if that matters and that the authenticity of an experience, whether it is real or virtual, may be effectively the same thing in our contemporary hybrid condition.”

Rosenthal and Moreno were admirers of each other’s work before the project. Rosenthal has exhibited his work internationally, and Moreno is a Fulbright scholar who has choreographed for the National School of Dance of Panama, Northwestern University and Repertory Dance Theater. Both men were looking for an opportunity to collaborate on a project that drew from other disciplines.

“This is not just another dance,” Moreno said. “It is a complex presentation of different art forms. And the ideas about what happens when technology and the human body intersect are not only treated abstractly but are inherent in the physical process of creating the work.”

The performance in New York City is the first phase of a four-part piece that will ultimately come together as an evening-length work. A new phase will be produced each semester. In phase II, Moreno and Rosenthal plan to incorporate video monitors that dancers will move around and interact with on stage. A parallel component to the ongoing project, Rosenthal’s single-channel version of the first phase of the work — "Human, Next: Phase One" — will premiere early April in a screening curated by artist Darrin Martin at Vanity Projects in New York City.

Following the New York City performance, the six KU student dancers who originated the piece at the Lied Center will perform it at the American College Dance Festival in Chicago.

The first phase of “human, next” was made possible from a grant through the KU Hall Center for the Humanities.



Matt Menzenski, a graduate student in Slavic languages & literatures, took this photo during President Obama’s speech at KU Thursday. Menzenski says he was struck by how relaxed the president was in his delivery. He missed a chance to hear former President Bill Clinton speak in his hometown in 2004, but finally got to see a sitting president this week at KU. “The opportunity to hear the president speak is just one of many great opportunities I've had at KU. So many interesting talks and events happen here all the time. I try to attend at least one a week-- it's never hard to find something interesting to go to.” Tags: University of Kansas College of Liberal Arts and Sciences KU School of Languages, Literatures & Cultures KU Dept of Slavic Languages - Friends & Alumni Barack Obama The White House #exploreKU #POTUSatKU

#RockChalk to Dana Adkins-Heljeson of @KSgeology , recipient of the Outstanding Support Staff Recognition Award. http://t.co/PbwFlzZD8W
Explore KU: The Bells of Mount Oread KU’s Campanile, a 120-foot-tall timepiece that tolls automatically on the hour and quarter-hour, not only sounded in the 2015 New Year at midnight with 12 mighty gongs, but also regularly rings up memories for many Jayhawks – the 277 faculty and students who gave their lives during World War II, the graduates who walk through its doors at commencement, and aspiring students who have strolled through the Lawrence campus. (See http://bit.ly/1xjjwJj). For nearly 60 years, KU’s 53-bell carillon has been tolling the sounds of peace and serenity across Mount Oread since it was installed in June 1955 inside the landmark World War II Memorial Campanile, which was dedicated in 1951. (See http://bit.ly/1BoL9jv) The carillon is also a four-octave musical instrument, which is played with a giant keyboard and foot pedals. University Carillonneur Elizabeth Egber-Berghout (http://bit.ly/14fiBPl), associate professor of carillon and organ, climbs 77 steps up a spiral staircase in the bell tower to perform recitals several times a month.


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