The Skype Experiment: An introduction

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For the creation of Bound, YSDT will be creating across oceans through video conferencing. Artistic Director, Samar Haddad King will be based in Ramallah, working with composer boikutt to create the musical score for Bound. The dancers and Samar will be rehearsing via skype to create the visual score…join us as we embark on this new experiment.

Today we embark upon this year-long experiment to create movement through video conferencing and the web. As Samar sits in Ramallah, the NYC based dancers of YSDT pile into the studio in Queens and gather around the computer to say good morning- although it is already 5pm in the West Bank. My MacBook Pro laptop has acquired some strangely anthropomorphic qualities in the first few weeks of Samar’s absence; we stack it on a pile of books or some Tupperware in order to adjust the angle of the video- we laugh and tell Samar what sort of makeshift director’s chair we have made for her today. It is like her stand-in body double.

Samar’s voice is loud as she gives instructions over the surround sound speaker system. The dancers lie on the floor and begin class- we have angled the computer camera down so that she can see us splayed out in a circle. The connection is slow and sometimes the audio skips- in the middle of a phrase the count will go from 2 to 5 without warning. We play along like figures in fast forward; catching up to finish the phrase in time. There is a chirping feedback from the microphones, but otherwise the connection is strangely effective, almost like Samar really were there in the room.

After class Samar works with dancers one on one, going over phrases and giving corrections while the rest of the group reviews choreography. After working together for over five years, the dancers are ready for this new challenge. Through countless hours spent together in the studio, on stage and on tour, the company can now pick up the nuances in one another’s language, anticipate corrections and fill in the blanks when Samar’s sound cuts in and out. Perhaps with a less experienced group this type of creative process would become stymied in the technical details, the blurry video, the delayed sound.

But for the dancers of YSDT, this new skype experiment is a welcome challenge; one which not only pushes the boundaries of conventional creation, but also brings them directly into the experience of so many people whose movement is restricted by borders and bureaucracy. By mirroring the subject matter of the work at hand, the creation of Bound allows the dancers to access the concept directly and viscerally- the best way for a dancer to learn anything. The experience of not being able to touch, smell, be seen in three dimensions by one of our closest friends and colleagues  is already effective enough to render the skype experiment a success- at least for those in the process. Now the question is- will it translate to an audience?


Pictures from YSDT dancer, Sara Genoves-Sylvan.

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