5 Live Calibrations
Before choreographing 5 Live Calibrations, Madeline Hollander had not yet created a work for the stage. In a phone interview she explained, “I typically make work for art institutions such as museums, galleries, or public spaces. So I’m not used to having a beginning and an end.” To bring her experience with live and looping performances to the stage, she landed on a concept that created the illusion of the dancers moving indefinitely. She described the open curtain as a frame through which the audience peeks in on the dancers at a moment in time, but that we should assume when the curtain is down, the dancing continues without our presence.
“It’s kind of like if you put a curtain over a fish tank and then you reveal the tank and they are all doing their thing, and then you cover it back up, and the fish are continuously living their lives. When you pull the curtain back again, you see them still there but in totally different positions” (4)
Hollander explained how each of the five movements was inspired and driven by different calibration techniques. “Whether it’s calibrating color on a projector, or calibrating balance when you’re dizzy; from planetary to molecular calibration exercises, we started piecing together movements and mapping them onto the human body.” From these exercises, Hollander and the dancers developed contests and games that take place within the work. The outcome of each game determines how the dancers proceed in the next section. For example, the curtain rises on the first of five movements to reveal a balancing competition. As each dancer loses their balance—and that happens in a different order every time—they move on to their next physical task while adjusting to the unique pattern of movement created around them as their peers fight for and inevitably fall out of their balances.
Says Hollander, “I think it’s more fun for the audience to kind of view it like watching a sports game unfold. They know the rules of the soccer game, but you don’t know who’s going to make the goal.” And that goes for the dancers, too! As the winner of the game is different in every performance, the work is as new to the dancers as it is to the audience each time. And as Gia Kourlas said in her New York Times review, “You don’t have to understand the game to appreciate the arresting results.” (6)