The dance glued to the eyes that is “Koros”
Photo: Do Phan Hoi “Koros VR” is an immersive virtual reality experience that offers three contemporary dance programs.
The Agora de la danse is becoming, and this is a first, a producer of virtual reality. Sitting on a swivel chair, a Meta Quest 2 helmet on the head, the spectator finds himself, for Koros, with the dance glued to his eyes. He sees and lives, in an intense 35 minutes, three excerpts from repertoire. Margie Gillis (A Complex Simplicity of Love, 2003), Andrea Peña (6.58: manifesto, 2021) and Hélène Blackburn (Allegro Barbaro< /i>, 2022) sign the triptych of an experience which, because it is conclusive, raises a thousand questions.
Koros proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the link between contemporary dance and virtual reality is fruitful. Thus, Andrea Peña and Hélène Blackburn take advantage of formal possibilities, placing the spectator at the center of their groups of dancers. A privileged location.
Hélène Blackburn replays her signature materials: verticality, sharp if not aggressive movements, young bodies with the standards of beauty, pointe shoes for a dancer, arch-frontal and impermeable presence, choir observing a solo or a duet, group marches.
Andrea Peña proposes a gesture that is somatic, carried by more diversified bodies, practically naked, and supported by the long notes of a soprano which bring vibration and mystery. The weight is felt, like the intention to anchor oneself to the hollows of the impulses and the different relationships from duo to duo. We find this touch of soft sexuthought so frequent in contemporary dance, like a style, rarely a real purpose.
However, the virtual reality bezel, if it allows you to look around you and watch the action happening off-screen, prevents peripheral gaze and the viewer's recoil, even slight. And from these two proposals where the images of the dancers surround the spectator very closely, to the point of aping touch, where of course the dancers do not adjust to the folds or the openings of the spectator, emerges the question of the difference between proximity and intimacy. Because there cannot be there, as in living art, a relationship of being (the spectator) to being (the dancer). Only a relationship of being to the image.
A whole reflection on the policy of proximity arose from there. The question of the spectator's consent also comes up – yet very developed in the concerns of several young choreographers. And the dilution of empathy in the face of images becomes an issue. Impatience is livelier, more violent if a moment of virtual dance doesn't hit the mark, where the presence of a flesh-and-blood human tempers and delays it.
What it takes to receive
Margie Gillis, national treasure and exceptional performer of generosity, brings, as much in her presentation as in her choreographic choice of a silky and fluttering trio, the gentleness towards the spectator, the concern for inclusion and also a distance that helps to surrender to all the novelties of this new form of dance presentation. If the choreography is not surprising, it fully and very well serves the experience.
It also touches, too quickly, on interactivity. The potential is there, we feel that it is great, as much for documenting dance master classes as for moving the bodies of the spectators.
Because as in Koros, the virtual reality dance experience is fundamentally individual. Exit the social ritual and the collective breathing of the spectators among themselves and with the dancers. This may be a plus for some viewers. The Agora de la danse has also thought of a more theatrical stage coating than necessary, both to create intimacy and to keep the habits and customs of “traditional” performances.
Korosis also a very strong experience for the nervous system. An advantage ? Yes, but your reporter finished it, after some considerable dizziness, with a headache and a vague nausea that didn't prevent the appreciation, but which required about twenty minutes of “returning to the ground” before exit the room. The attentive and warm welcome of the mediators, which was worth four stars during the presentation to the media and which we assure that it will be the same water for the general public, is essential.
We repeat: it is because Koros works, and very well, that all these questions appear and that reflection wishes to attach itself, already and strongly, to this new form, to this search, to what it illuminates and what it disturbs. Koros offers the most successful combination of dance and digital we have seen to date. It's to see, it's to live. This is to think about.
Koros. A virtual experience in contemporary dance
Including a trio by and with Margie Gillis, a piece for eight dancers and a singer by Andrea Peña, and a piece for ten dancers by Hélène Blackburn.