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Un-leveling the playing field

Image from the video 'TILT,' by Paula Josa-Jones and Ellen Sebring, featuring dancers Alissa Cardone and Ingrid Schatz.
Image from the video 'TILT,' by Paula Josa-Jones and Ellen Sebring, featuring dancers Alissa Cardone and Ingrid Schatz.

What happens when a choreographer pulls the floor out from beneath her graceful, agile, well-trained dancers? What happens when gravity shifts beneath their feet?

"TILT," a new collaboration between video artist Ellen Sebring (S.M.VisS 1986) and acclaimed Boston choreographer Paula Josa-Jones, explores that new frontier. The performance combines large-screen video, live dancers, and a gravity-disrupting mechanism called a "levitron" to discover new realms of movement.

Starting Sunday, Jan. 16, the artists will conduct a four-day workshop for students to create performance elements for "TILT," including choreography, lighting and a rudimentary levitron designed by Geoff Benson. The workshop will culminate in a lecture demonstration on Saturday, Jan. 22 at 3 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium. Performers will include Alissa Cardone and Ingrid Schatz, both members of Paula Josa-Jones' dance company Performance Works, and members of MIT's Kinaesthetics Lab, a student choreography group.

The performers will experiment with ways to mirror on stage the tilt effect, which was created by camera movement in the videotape. Sebring notes that when gravity is disrupted, the dancers are thrown out of balance, evoking new types of dance movement. "We hope to get some ideas as to how to build a more sophisticated levitron in the future," she said.

Josa-Jones and Sebring have collaborated for the past 15 years on a wide range of works for dance and film. Most recently, they created a video version of "RIDE," Josa-Jones' work for dressage horses and dancers currently under development as a Broadway-style production. "TILT" was shown in video form at last year's Dance on Camera Festival at Lincoln Center.

Sebring was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies from 1987-1993 and is currently an research associate in the Visualizing Cultures project under the direction of professors John Dower and Shigeru Miyagawa. Sebring was selected by the American Film Institute's Directing Workshop for Women to direct a film in Hollywood; she has directed more than 30 documentaries on visual artists, dance and theater. In 2004 she received a residency to compose music for "DIVE," an interactive video installation featuring Josa-Jones, which also will be screened at the Jan. 22 event in Kresge.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 12, 2005 (download PDF).

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