The University Record, June 25, 1997

Science meets dance at Power Center July 12

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

Morphometrics, electronic signals from the Hubbel Space Telescope, a motorized venetian blind, a rope grid, on-stage film projectors, and dancers will combine for the 8 p.m. July 12 premiere performance of "Seven Enigmas" at the Power Center for the Performing Arts.

The Dance Department's Peter Sparling, as artistic director and choreographer, has put together seven intricate solo dances set to the music of Daniel Roumain. Visual artist Jim Cogswell of the School of Art and Design has mapped out a multimedia sculptural installation of objects and surfaces in motion with human bodies. Film projections and electronic images adapted from the work of two U-M research scientists are choreographed to interact with dancers and sculptural elements on an array of screens throughout the performance.

Cogswell used powerful new graphical tools developed by Fred Bookstein, a distinguished research scientist in the Center for Human Growth and Development. These tools investigate patterns of shape variations as deformations of a picture plane or sculptural space within which some organism is abstractly located. Bookstein's colleague, Bill Green, adapted this approach to a new computer program that interprets the physical movements of Sparling's dancers as if they were driven by deformations of the space around them, resulting in a morphing grid pattern that appears on giant projection screens behind the dancers and sculptural elements.

Woven in with these computer animations are images from outer space from cameras on the Hubbel Space Telescope, made accessible by John Clarke, a research scientist in the Space Physics Research Laboratory.

Dancers move among an array of sculptural objects including a swag of shimmering screen that crosses the stage in an elegant parabola and a giant motorized venetian blind that rotates shining aluminum surfaces into a composition of blinding color. A dancer emerges from a translucent aluminum framed shell. Another performs in front of a rope grid being deformed by the movements of climbing dancers. Six on-stage film projectors create a mysterious tower of movement. Seven knotted ropes suspended above the stage evoke the complex turnings of the human mind and the intergalactic universe that is the object of fascination.

The performance, which also includes Dance Gallery/Peter Sparling's premiere of "Berliner Mass," is part of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival. Tickets, $10-$19, are available at the Power Center box office, 764-2538.

This performance is supported in part through funds from the Office of the Vice President for Research, Horace Rackham School of Graduate Studies, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, School of Music, Audio Visual Impact and Friends of Dance Gallery/Peter Sparling and Co.