NobleMotion Dance Explores the Cosmos in New Show

The tech-savvy company's new production wrestles with the ideas of time and space.

By Adam Castañeda August 25, 2014

Image: Lynn Lane

Dark Matter: Evidence of Things Unseen
Aug 29–30 & Sept 4–6 at 8 
The Barn
2201 Preston St.

Science and religion don’t always see eye to eye, but when they intersect they often provoke profound conversations about the world and our place in it. For Andy and Dionne Sparkman Noble, the husband-and-wife team and co–artistic directors of NobleMotion Dance, this juxtaposition sparked the beginning of a new evening-length project with the scientific theory of dark matter at its center.

“Dark matter is hypothesized to hold the universe together, but it’s really difficult to prove,” explains Andy, noting that the postulated material neither emits nor absorbs light, and can only be known through its effects. “It’s similar to the concept of faith. It’s not seen, but the evidence is in things unseen.”

Dark Matter: Evidence of Things Unseen will premiere at The Barn later this week. If it sounds like a technology-driven production, you’d be right. NobleMotion Dance is inarguably the most tech-savvy dance company in town, but their work is far from gimmicky. “The biggest challenge is making sure that the technology adds to the dance, and make sure it’s necessary,” says Andy. “We really like to use technology to create a world, and have the dancers interact in that world.”

Image: Lynn Lane

NobleMotion’s The Grid from last year comes to mind, a piece in which dancers maneuvered through a series of maze-like environments made from four-by-eight-foot moveable walls that displayed an avalanche of projected kaleidoscopic imagery. Dark Matter promises even more of this visceral experience as The Barn is transformed into a planetarium dreamscape. The success of the visual effects in a typical NobleMotion show is due in large part to David J. Deveau, the company’s resident lighting designer.

The team for Dark Matter also includes a fourth collaborator, designer and musician Jonathon Kinsey. “We’re working with the computer program Isadora,” Dionne says in regards to one of her dances in the first half of the show. “There’s a lot of real-time video capture, and then there’s real-time manipulation of the dancer on the screen. The dancers are essentially dancing with themselves as their image is being altered.”

The program is divided into two sections, one that explores space and another that probes time. The “time” section features a mirrored floor, and at one point the entire back wall becomes a mirror. With half the space a reflective surface, the dance allows for some pretty incredible imagery. Dancers will be lit from beneath, projections will be streamed down onto the mirrors, and fog will engulf the stage.

Also on display is NobleMotion’s trademark power dancing. “We have our trademark physicality, a lot of partnering, a lot of virtuosic dancing, but there’s also a lot of gesture and theatricality to what’s happening as well,” says Andy. The technology, the explosive dancing—it’s all part of the Nobles’ efforts to bring dance to a larger audience of non-connoisseurs. The visual pizzazz of their work is entertaining and accessible, but for this show, I’d guess the tension between science and faith will also strike a personal chord. “We’re not trying to figure out which is right,” says Dionne. “We’re jogging a lot of conversation. We are dealing with the ideas of space and time and how those two things direct our lives. We are always somewhere and we’re always moving forward.”

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