On Stage: Making “TAKES”

Sometimes art and life go hand-in-hand and it’s up to us to meld the two together. This weekend at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, audiences will be able to affect not only their own lives, but their perception of art in Nichole Canuso’s collaborative “TAKES.”

Conceived by Nichole and multi-media director Lars Jan, “TAKES” focuses on a couple (Nichole and Dito Van Reigersberg) trapped inside a thin membrane of a box with 20′ by 10′ walls. “We really wanted to expand the range of simple, everyday gesture — almost like cinema verite — where you’re really seeing the mundane essence of their life,” she explains. “And then we wanted to go to the end of the spectrum with emotional abstraction in fully-danced excerpts.”

But in the danced moments, they’re “still characters and very theatrical” and in the simplest of actions they’re still “very choreographic and thinking spatially about where we are, which camera we’re in. Yes, choreographically it’s still complex — I mean even the simplest things can be complex.”

That’s because there are two live bodies and, with four screens, an additional eight filmed bodies, resulting in 10 real and Memorex cast members. By adding in various film techniques such as underlays and overlaps, the options are virtually limitless.

This piece brings together two people and shows their relationship over time. But the events are not necessarily in order. The Philadelphia choreographer likens them to photos that are washed up on shore, some clearly focused, others that are not. “So we have an assortment of these things. They’re not necessarily the epic moments; they’re the most important moments, a collection of small events that add up to a life together.”

That “life” story actually emanated from another production called “Wandering Alice,” where a cast of 15 led the audience through four floors of a warehouse wonderland, weaving through rooms abutting on staircases and tight spaces. This “Alice” was “an investigation in the role that the audience plays in the work,” where it could could become the main character at times.

But Nichole and Lars came up with “a lot of material that didn’t fit “Wandering Alice,” but was “really interesting.” The two decided to do an additional project on a smaller scale “with the focus on the relationship of the movement to the video design.” In this production, though, the audience doesn’t influence the work, but they can influence their own experience.

The two artists wanted the audience to have the freedom to navigate the space like visitors would navigate an art gallery. Because film was involved, they wanted perspective — being able to view it closer or from far away. And because it was also live performance, it would be occurring in a unique moment and would happen the same way again.

So the audience will surround the dancers and their film cube. They will also be able to get up and move around. “Some don’t move,” notes Nichole. “They find a spot that feels right and they stay. Others wander around as if it’s a sculpture — it has that openness in it.”

So there’s no right moment to move far away and no right moment to get in close. The choice is up to you in what amounts to an artful life experience that you will determine.

See Listings for more information.

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