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Techno-Mind Dance

I wrote Techno-Mind Dance for The Celumbra Project where the core story is about humanity and technology.


In the dance, we introduce two sets of “characters:” dancers, representing Humanity, and animations, representing Technology. As the story unfolds, the dancers and animations interact dramatically. To visualize how this is possible, imagine animations playing on many high definition screens. Because the screens are attached to robotic arms, they can move around the stage. They can move up and down, forward and back, and angle from left to right and corner to corner. They can separate into individual positions or join together in a seamless image as large as back of the stage.

As an audience, we do not see the screens, as they disappear into black at the edges and we handle the stage lights specially. We see only what is on the display screens, the illusion of brilliant imagery suspended in space, rather than images framed on screens. Being large digital displays, we see no projection, and have no glare from the screens. The imagery is always animated, and the display screens move nimbly enough to interact with the dancers, allowing them, through timing of their motions, animation, and sound, to come alive with anthropomorphic qualities.

The dancers respond viscerally to the imagery, just as we have responded historically when technology has taken us past our ability to understand who we are. But this depiction includes a hint of where humanity and technology are headed—peaceful co-evolution.


The Story of the Dance

The dance tells a basic story about the relationship between Humanity (the dancers) and Technology (animated images on the display screens). Their initial meeting and subsequent interactions are startling and complex, and they go through several difficult transformations. But in the end, they finally reach a lyrical co-evolution. To understand their relationship as we depict it on stage, think back to when Copernicus, then Galileo, driven by new technology (the telescope), introduced the idea to humanity that Earth was not at the center of the universe, and mentally compress the resulting confusion, transformation of world views, and final acquiescence as people responded to it over time. Now, because new technology is evolving more and more rapidly, entering our lives at unprecedented levels, challenging every part of how we understand ourselves and the world, we need more wisdom in managing this relationship.



When Humanity first bumps into Technology, they frighten each other, but Humanity keeps returning to find Technology. As their relationship progresses, Humanity feels the movement of Technology (in which the dancers absorb the movements from the imagery in a variety of ways), but these movements eventually become oppressive, and the dancers revolt, flying up and over the screens, trying to resist them, to hide from them. When the dancers find themselves alone on stage, they soon search again for the imagery—Humanity searching for Technology—and finding more and more, go through a variety of attempts to lead the movement in the imagery, rather than the other way around. The dance ends with all dancers and imagery on stage at the same time, moving through an extended, complex co-evolution, represented by intricate and intertwined motions between the dancers and imagery. In the postlude, we see a dream sequence, where the imagery influences the dancers’ motion, and the dancers influence the imagery’s motion, all in a chain, so that we see an impeccable balance of humans and technology co-evolving harmoniously.


First Sample

On a dark stage, a dim light comes up on a dancer who is probing the darkness at center stage, searching for an understanding, crawling and rising in primal motions toward upstage right. (Subtext: What is happening to me? Where am I?) [searching motif] He bumps into an image, upstage right, which pops up in his way [music motif], startling the dancer and imagery, and both bolt up and away, the imagery rising and moving further upstage and the dancer arching away across stage toward stage left (via cables), landing on the other side with a complex gesture. (subtext: What was that? I don’t understand.) [confusion motif]


Second Sample

As the dancer finally gets past his fear of the imagery, he taps the air gently {the edge of the screen, unseen by audience members} at stage left, and a soft blue, simple sound wave made of the air particles lights up, rolling toward stage right, fading after a short distance. The light on his hand brightens as he taps the air. He delights in this new discovery [joy motif] and taps the spot again, and another soft blue wave rolls further across the stage, {the screens arranged horizontally across the stage, slightly over his head in a slight curve}. He touches the spot yet again, and another wave rolls across the stage. He begins to touch the spot again and again, all in synchrony with a repeating sine wave, becoming more and more elaborate with his body, now using different parts of his body to touch the spot.


As he continues his elaborate motions, being the source of the waves, other dancers begin to appear from upstage, out of the darkness, under the imagery, moving in synchrony with the wave, some running, in flowing motions, along the length of the wave across the stage, and others hovering back and forth in complex motion, and all moving through each other, highlighting the time/space ambiguity of waves—and the ambiguity of whether Humanity is leading Technology or Technology leading Humanity. After a while, the motion in the imagery—a continuous series of waves—begins to rise at stage right, opposite the dancer tapping the spot, and the motion of the waves begins to influence the dancer at the source of the waves: he begins to lose his freedom to move, taking on more and more of the waves’ motion (as occurs in resonance).


Another dancer climbs on top of him to help try to keep him free to move, in an obvious struggle with the motion, but the imagery now begins to include the tympanic membrane and the ossicles, tilting down more on the dancers at stage left, {screens tilt corner to corner, in a stack from high to low} from stage right to stage left. The imagery now includes the foot of the stapes, pumping up and down at a downward angle, down on to the dancers, who are now forced into the movement of the imagery, forced into the shape of the stapes, down lower to the floor. The lights change to darker, alternating colors, while the music morphs from melodic into static, mechanical pumping—the lights, music, and dancers all in synch with the relentless pumping of the imagery. [angst motif]


Other dancers leap onto their bodies, head first, feet pushing upward against the tyranny of the pulsing stapes, and another dancer piles on again, his head on their shoulders and his legs high up in the air, and they begin to pump in sync with the stapes pumping on, until the alternating lights getting brighter with each flash, the pulsing, grinding music getting louder, the angst motive getting more and more intense, until the motion explodes: the dancers unpeel rapidly from their entrenched motion and posture, breaking into vibrating parts, the lights brightening before going to dim colors, and the imagery flashing before dying out.


The dancers, now on the ground recovering, feeling for themselves (their humanity), rolling, rising, rolling, rising, unable to get up now, unable to stay down, struggling to regain their own motion, until they all fold inward, becoming one big mass, the whole merging finally into one dancer emerging into the light [becoming one from many parts motif]. He rises fiercely, collecting himself. A smaller image of the tympanic membrane appears stage right, and he flies across to grab the image, trying to contain it, but when he grabs on, [vibration music] he begins to absorb the motion, moving with the complex motion of the membrane until he lets go. Again he collapses, with all dancers rushing in, glomming on, until he emerges again as one in the light [becoming one from many parts motif].


After a few similar episodes of finding his way with the imagery, he begins the finale with his own repetitive and complex motion, repeating it continuously; after a while, another dancer slides in, and goes through her own complex motion, which doesn’t interfere with the first dancer, but locks in with an intricate fit; then a third dancer joins in, in his own complex motion, also intricately bound to the first two motions; and this repeats for the remaining dancers—repetitive, but not mechanical; sequenced, but beautiful; complex, yet simple; pulsing, yet free. Meanwhile, the images build up similarly, until they finally become whole, the full image of the interior of the cochlea. The whole scene ends on the long low note of the finale from From Sound to Cilia, with the dancers unwinding their clock-gear-like motion into a final position of one dancer in front of the others, head down to the floor, crouched, with all light now focusing on him.


Just as the lyrical postlude music begins, he slowly unfolds, uncurling his body, rising in the air in continuous motion {via cable}, floating, arching his back, now lyrically taps the air, sending a wave downward toward the corner of stage right, where the wave gently taps another dancer who comes into view, the wave moving him gently. In his fluid motion, he twirls, and taps the air, sending a wave horizontally across the stage, waking up another dancer who comes into view. In this dreamy sequence, dancers absorb the motion of the waves, and send off other waves, up the stage, down low, all at different angles, all at different wave shapes, until the last dancer taps the air and sends a wave from stage right upward to the corner of stage left, watching it disappear into darkness. And he turns, with an elegant motion, and goes offstage.


Uses for the dance in The Celumbra Project

Pilobolus, the epitome of strength, grace, and innovation in human form, interacts with the epitome of high-tech ingenuity: three-dimensional animations displayed on screens that move around the stage via robotic arms, nimbly enough to become a character itself. While Techno-Mind Dance is itself an example of humanity and technology—dancers and high-tech engineering—the story of the dance is also about humanity retaining its grace while overcoming the oppressive side of technology.


The dance functions as an attractor: while its audience members may not be huge in number, it triggers a bonanza of high profile publicity as it tours around the world, igniting the worlds of dance, art, and music—a sweep of this channel in the population. With one asset, we connect the leaders, decision makers, and others who support the arts to the multilevel, unified vision of the diversity of the implementation.


For the imagery, we use the base assets from The Listening Mind in 3D and Through a Portal to the Mind. Combined with the mobile displays, the imagery becomes symbolic of probing technologically into ourselves, changing our sense of who we are, raising the base questions of humanity and technology that we use isomorphically in Publicity Lagniappe and Campaign.