Melanie Forbes-Broomes in VOID 

VOID, a new dance and audio-visual collaboration by V/DA based on JG Ballard’s Concrete Island premieres at Glasgow’s Tramway on Friday 13 and Saturday 14 May.

We found out more about this unique performance from dance company V/DA…

What can audiences expect from VOID?

Within a single panel of chain link fence doubling as a projection screen, dream-like geometric visions emerge, created from obsolete retro-futurist technology, and the accompanying soundtrack also appears somewhat dysfunctional. This is the traffic island inside which our protagonist is trapped.

In this Crusoe-like tale of survival, mind, body and the environment fight each other then make up; improbable human shapes push, balance and suspend against interference patterns from a distant era.

Audiences may find themselves asking “Which way is up, or out?” and “Is this past, present or future?”. 

In this cinematic diorama Melanie Forbes-Broomes' signature gymnastic-infused choreography meets Dav Bernard's minimalist self generating video landscapes, inspired by JG Ballard's brand of Science Fiction that shuns the cosmos and laser guns in favour of inner-narratives, the future of tomorrow and emergent technologies.

How do the dance and audio-visual elements come together in the performance?

We chose to have video as the unique source of lighting so the graphic compositions need to be finely tuned to the choreography to frame the physical performance. With experimentation, we have found some very distinctive combinations of moving imagery and gestures that get even more puzzling when you throw a heavily patterned outfit into the mix. Besides those layering effects, the video is also able to create simplistic lighting effects of block colours, and flat static lighting to reveal the full extent of Melanie's meticulously controlled routines.

All our visual scores have been devised and recorded live whilst responding to pre-devised choreography during rehearsals; it is an exciting real-time performative process at the other end of the spectrum from CGI animation techniques.

Melanie Forbes-Broomes in VOID

VOID is based on JG Ballard’s Concrete Island, what made this inspiring source material?

The piece originally started its journey with an altogether quite different text: No Exit by Sartre.

Melanie had been exploring that play for movement research, with themes such as entrapment, psychosis and troubled characters providing a good platform for the unique combination of dance, gymnastic and physical theatre skills she develops for V/DA.

As the starting point for a new collaborative performance piece, we thought that an existing text would provide good launchpad for our combined artistic propositions, and we set off to continue Mel's exploration of Sartre's existentialist play.

Set in a plain room with baroque furniture and featuring dialogue-heavy interaction between several lead protagonist, it failed to inspire us on a scenographic and dramatic level. We set off to look for a new text with similar psycho-dramatic intensity and a focus on a confined claustrophobic setting. Our friend and 85A colleague Pete Sach suggested Concrete Island. With its decaying post-industrial environment and a single lead character going through a physical as well as emotional journey, the text provided us with a good stylistic match for our glitchy imagery and movement explorations.

What are the challenges in choreographing a collaborative piece like VOID?

V/DA's work usually rely on collaboration between multiple dancers, this is Melanie's first solo show. It is difficult to work with the projection as an 'invisible' stage partner, the devising process is also less dynamic as it relies on many cycles of analysis of filmed rehearsals instead of the trust and energy of a physical partner. In fact, some of the sections were devised with the help of other dancers with a final solo presentation in mind.

Working across disciplines can be a steep learning curve, especially when machines are involved: they are generally a lot slower than the human body, but when the effect we’ve been looking for is realised, it's super satisfying. This is why the role of the performance director is also crucial, to gauge when the combination is working and make the team hold on to it. We feel lucky we managed to keep a small creative team that enabled us to shape the piece quickly and create a piece of dance+AV with its own distinctive style.

VOID premieres at Glasgow’s Tramway on 13 and 14 May, tickets can be booked online. Find out more about VOID

VOID was supported by Creative Scotland’s Open Project Fund.

Photo credits Sefa Ucbas

This article was published on 04 May 2016