American choreographer Norah Zuniga Shaw talks to Sravasti Datta of the intelligence of an art form like dance
The combination of dance and technology is a curious concept. American choreographer and professional dancer Norah Zuniga Shaw, however, explains the many points of similarities between these two seemingly different fields.
“The connection between our bodies and machines are essentially creative. It finds expression in myriad ways — in films, motion-capture projects and many other ways.”
Norah, with renowned choreographer William Forsythe, and Maria Palazzi, envisaged and created “Synchronous Objects” at the Ohio State University's Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design.
The installation represents contemporary choreography. Norah hopes that the installation will help enhance the viewers' knowledge on the technical aspect of dance, spark their curiosity and understand the relationship between arts and science.
“The installation is a web-based work focusing on choreography, for which we have used animations, interactive graphics and other parallel virtual manifestations,” says Norah, who has conducted many years of research on the interdisciplinary and intercultural creativity between dance and technology. Currently, she is director for dance and technology at the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design.
Norah says she's a choreographer first, but has been working with technology for 15 to 20 years. “I've been a dancer all my life. As an adult I did a lot of inter-cultural collaborative work. I deal with people who see the world differently. I've made films and done several installation and graphic work.” How easy or difficult has it been to address technology through dance? Norah says that there is only a small community among dancers who work with this concept. “There are dancers who find the idea frightening. They wonder if their art is going to be replaced. Well, absolutely not, is my answer. We need the physical body especially at a time when technology is taking us away from our bodies. For some scientists, they hardly interact with dancers and so don't know of the intelligence of the art form. Many don't understand or value the language of the body…they aren't aware of the fact that dance has various sources of knowledge.”
“Synchronous Objects” focuses on choreography that is different from performance. Norah explains further. “Any motion that you see can be viewed as choreography. If you look closely at peoples' movement, you can decipher patterns of motion, which enables one to negotiate with contemporary society.”
The trio conducted a workshop with Attakkalari dancers. Norah speaks enthusiastically about the experience. Synchronous Objects is on view today at the Max Mueller Bhavan/Goethe Institut.