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> > > Unlimited 2014: Chisato Minamimura: Ring the Changes+

Whilst eagerly awaiting the delights of Unlimited Festival next week, Sarah Pickthall attended a recent sharing of work in progress of Chisato Minamimura’s commissioned work Ring the Changes+ at TripSpace Studios in Haggerston - a collaboration produced by digital artist Nick Rothwell and Body>Data >Space.

photo of three dancers in front of a projection showing a series of blue lines and circles against a white ground

RING THE CHANGES+ Chisato Minamimura, Nick Rothwell, body>data>space Picture ©, Roswitha Chesher

The afternoon was revelatory for the different perspectives, persuasions and lines of enquiry in the room: deaf, hearing, dance, digital and of course the pressing and immediate context of Unlimited: the artistic vision of disabled artists.

Touching on the uniqueness of Ring the Changes+, Ghislaine Boddington, Creative Director of Body>Data>Space said:

“This work cannot exist without the interactivity of today’s digital technologies. Ring the Changes+ is a real-time conversation between the sounds, created by the breath and the motions of the dancers, and the emerging visuals in the projected stage space; enabled by the interactive technologies.

For those of us who do not understand how digital technology has developed in relation to dance practice, our processing was perhaps a little simplistic, in our desire to see sounds, illustrated through digital, trigger-happiness.

As we sit to discuss more of what we’ve seen, I realise that I’m there for the intrigue and wonder that is Chisato Minamimura: to find out how she feels about the deepening realisation of visualized sound through collaborating with the very talented Nick Rothwell. 

So too, my personal interest is in the visceral nature of the dancers physical exertion; the noise they make as they use their bodies to generate sound and rhythm that Chisato can see and we and the technology can ‘hear’.

I love the simplicity of generated lines and shapes and the way they move and vibrate. I’m keen to understand where the digital tech is placed on the dancers bodies and where it will be placed around the Purcell Room and what will be feeding from what? I’m agitated, intrigued and at times irritated. I want to know more and I think that’s a good way to be.

I’m lucky in that I have been party to Chisato’s choreographic methodology over the summer; developing an app that explores the layers of her process and deaf perspective at a C.DARE LAB alongside digital artist Peter Pavement.

I have spent hours with her scores, watching how she makes dance from them and builds delicious rapport with her dancers who want to do nothing more but serve her line of creative enquiry. Scores are not new in dance. Chisato’s own mentor Jonathan Burrows has played a critical part in the way she builds composition, but the point here is that Chisato is deaf and that’s the difference.

She’s at an interesting trajectory where a deeper synchronicity between dance, deafness and digital is emerging. It’s not entirely comfortable but its certainly utilizing more of the complexity of what digital can do, now.

I want to know more of what that feels like for her? For deaf audiences at the sharing, there was felt to be a less explicit deaf perspective on show. A degree of sign language was missing from earlier manifestations, namely the R&D for Ring the Changes+ at Watermans in 2013. I think if you’re thinking you’ll come and see something explicitly and recognisably 'deaf' per se, you may be disappointed.  What you will see is something unique; a moment in time along the line of enquiry that might well for Chisato, last a lifetime.

Without a doubt, Ring the Changes+ is a complex experience if you work too hard at it. There is a lot going on and the introduction within the Ring the Changes+ programme will be essential in easing the audience in so they can make a decision where they might choose to focus.

The need for audiences to make meaning, particularly when we are told what the work is about, is very interesting.  I am more convinced than ever about the need to unpack the process of how this artist makes work, what inspires and drives her beyond the use of language, be that sign or spoken. I personally feel it’s important that the dialogue between dance, deafness and digital in this respect must continue, not as a competition, but to use this to help those of us who don’t understand.

As Luke Pell, Chisato’s mentor through this process so succinctly puts it: “Chisato's ongoing choreographic investigation is an attempt - from her deaf perspective - to visualise and understand sound in relationship to the dancing body. She continues to develop her own means of notation and choreographic scoring so as to translate her artistic vision to dancers whose relationships and training within dance are governed by hearing perspectives.”

Ring the Changes+ will be presented in the Purcell Room, Southbank Centre, alongside ‘Remember When’ an intimate dance solo created and performed by Marc Brew
Friday 5 September
, 7.30pm + post show Q&A (with BSL interpreter)

Buy tickets and read more on the Southbank Centre’s website