Photo credit: Tom Dale

Staff Review: Digitopia

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I walked into the Warwick Arts Centre Studio rather apprehensively – the show was being marketed to 5+ and their families, and I certainly don’t fit this group. Would I enjoy the performance? Would I look silly in there, surrounded by excitable children?

Actually, although it was marketed as appropriate for children, it was certainly a very interesting show for adults too, particularly those who can both the skill of the dancers on stage as well as the huge technical prowess of the team members behind the scene. The Digital and Interactive Media artists did a great job in providing a mesmerizing light show, and the choreographer was excellent in matching the movement of the dancers with a fantastic use of the stage and lighting.

The show followed a typical, children-friendly storyline: a girl is playing with a ball, which suddenly becomes animated and develops a life of its own, and then transforms into lines, holograms and geometric shapes which then become a stick-man and finally a human form – I suppose a partner for the girl, who embarks on a magical trip exploring different shapes and spaces. There are no voices, neither by the dancers nor on the soundtrack, and the story is conveyed by elegant and graceful dancing from the pair on stage.

I felt totally engrossed in the narrative for about half an hour, but after that I must say I longed for some human warmth or some sunshine and life to invade the stage. The preview video shows some butterfly shapes but these don’t seem to have made it to the final cut. I wished they were included, or there was some intrusion of nature in the shape of flowers, or even some chintz in warm colours. After a while, the acid colours and the dark background, as well as the lack of human voice felt oppressive even to me, so I wonder at the reaction of children. I am all for digital art, but feel that it is more touching when it is embodied in our primeval sense of contact with the earthiness of our existence. I was hoping for a final resolution which would bring the central pair as well as us the viewers back into our daily life, somehow.

The dancers kept up the pace until the end, and the staging continued to be very accomplished from a technical point of view. In the end, I was left with great admiration for the understanding of space and the use of digital art to convey a sense of mathematical complexity all around us. Meanwhile, I hope the children in the audience, all of whom remained quiet and engaged throughout, had their own trip to a magical wonderland of dance, light, and imagination.