David Michalek's "Slow Dancing"I went to Jacob's Pillow this evening to see three examples of the hyper-slow-motion clips photographer David Michalek made last year of forty-six dancers and choreographers (six of whom performed as duos, meaning there are forty-three clips altogether). You can get a small taste of what I saw in the brief video below.
In a program note, Michalek provides some details concerning how the "Slow Dancing" clips were produced:
Each subject's movement (approximately five seconds long) was shot on a specially constructed set using a high-speed,high-definition camera recording at 1,000 frames per second (standard film captures thirty frames per second). [Elsewhere, Michalek mentions a speed of 3,000 frames per second.] The result is approximately ten minutes of extreme slow motion that enables the viewer to share priviledged information about the complexity of the simplest gestures and to witness details that would normally escape the naked eye.Last night, three of the dancers performed in the Doris Duke Studio Theatre in conjunction with projection of their "Slow Dancing" clips. In addition to seeing the clips themselves, the audience got to watch a live rendition of each dancer's five-second phrase, and also each dancer performing a choreographed solo.
Shantala Shivalingappa, a native of India, was the first performer. Her clip was an exquisite phrase of classic Kuchipudi dance, which, just as Michalek intended, was profoundly illuminated by being radically slowed down. Shivalingappa's solo was a rich, lyrical piece developed in collaboration with Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal.
Holley Farmer, a member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company", was next. Both her clip and her solo exemplified Cunningham's distinctive movement style.
The final performer was Fang-yi Sheu, until recently a member of the Martha Graham Dance Company, who divides her time between her native Taiwan and New York.Her clip was notable for the close-up it provided of how Graham contractions fit into a dance phrase. Sheu founded the LAFA & Artists dance company (Flash) with choreographer Bulareyaung Pagarlava in May of last year. Pagarlava choreographed the silken solo Sheu performed to "Song V" by Philip Glass.
My thought after watching just of tiny portion of "Slow Dancing" is that this is a treasure that one absolutely must see to appreciate. However vividly you may think you can imagine the impact of the full-scale film clips, the real experience is infinitely richer than imagination and small-scale computer videos can produce.
I must also mention the performace by Hālau I Ka Wēkiu that I saw earlier in the evening on the Pillow's outside stage. Hālau I Ka Wēkiu is a hula school founded in 1998 in Pauoa, O'ahu.
The school was represented at the Pillow by thirty dancers and two musicians, in addition to artistic directors, Karl Veto Baker and Michael Casupang. The group has traveled to the East Coast from Hawai'i to mark the school's tenth anniversary with a modest tour. The chance to see their traditional and respectfully choreographed contemporary hula pieces, accompanied by songs in Hawai'ian, was a moving bit of direct contact with the islands' culture (more specifically, with the culture of the island of Kaua'i).