The theatre darkens and the lights come up on a performance that is completely unknown – for not just the audience but the dancers, too.
Welcome to Forgery, where a complex series of algorithms and cutting-edge technology dictate each performance – a show that’s directed entirely by computer and is different every single performance.
Developed by award-winning Australian dancer, sound designer, choreographer and creative coder Alisdair Macindoe, the six renowned Australasian Dance Collective (ADC) dancers will be fed instructions live on stage. The program’s algorithms are also in charge of lighting, costumes and music.
From opening night to closing, every show will be completely unique. For ADC’s world-class company artists, it’s dance without a safety net.
“Standing in front of hundreds of people who are expecting a performance, with no idea about what you are going to do is probably one of the hardest things a performer can do,” Macindoe says. “That’s probably why I find Forgery so exciting and challenging. But I have always felt that contemporary dance lends itself well to processes that ask the artists to grow and flex around a concept that expands on what dance can be. I think there is a shared love and hate for the idea, as it presents as simultaneously freeing and completely impossible at the same time. The ADC dancers are exceptional artists, who literally are able to create new works on the spot. I am baffled by the flexibility of their minds, their ability to intuit a collective intention and their skills as trained movement experts.”
While it is equal parts terror and excitement for the dancers, Macindoe says it will also be an adventure for Brisbane Festival audiences.
“There is a thrill in knowing what you are seeing is genuinely and authentically being created in front of you,” he says. “But even if you didn’t know or didn’t care, there is an unexplainable beauty in the observation of human reactivity. You could put it down to our innate need to empathise with other humans, I don’t really know what it is, but I get the same feeling watching a good game of tennis.”
Forgery was developed in late 2020, while Melbourne-based Macindoe was enduring more than three months of lockdown. However, with the algorithm in charge of the choreography, the ADC dancers only needed a computer in the Brisbane studio with them, not an in-person choreographer. Macindoe simply watched rehearsals via Zoom and let the computer do the rest.
“I was lucky to have an already established interest in programatic dance making, so adapting to COVID was quite seamless,” he admits.
Macindoe encourages audiences to come multiple times, as each performance will be totally unique and contributes to a greater understanding and appreciation for the creative process.
“Forgery invites you into an experiment, where the outcome of each show becomes part a bigger picture, and the more shows you attend, the bigger that picture becomes,” he says.
ADC Artistic Director Amy Hollingsworth says Forgery is a courageous work that poses questions about creative agency in our digital age.
“Art has been, is, and will always be, a profound way for us to process how we feel,” she says. “It not only aids in envisaging the future but how we fit into it. The interlacing of arts and tech keeps humanity firmly embedded in the technology, which is imperative. A work like Forgery not only invites people to be completely included in a unique experience, but it also illustrates ADC’s commitment to redefining our boundaries and reimagining the way we connect with our audiences.”
She adds, “Alisdair is an extraordinary artist – a gifted performer, communicating with an inspiring physicality, but he also possesses quick intelligence and immense curiosity. His breadth of skills and interests has resulted in a unique and compelling choreographic voice – a maker who is able to coalesce dance, music, coding into truly exhilarating experiences for audiences.”
Australasian Dance Collective will present Forgery at Cremorne Theatre, QPAC, from 22 September – 2 October. For tickets and more information, visit australasiandancecollective.com/forgery-brisbane-festival.