Choreographer’s Showcase Challenges Audience to Break Down Technology’s Barriers

To say that space was utilized during the Kentucky College of Art + Design’s Choreographer’s Showcase would be an understatement. In fact, space seemed to be the point. The show asserted that despite modern technology’s advances, the new, digitally dominated space in which we live has problematically influenced our identities and our interactions. We are now a curated people, perpetually tailoring ourselves and our relationships to fit false ideals so often seen online. And this distorted view of identity is a problem. We now have trouble being our true selves, and our relationships have suffered as a result. Technology, the main barrier blocking our way to authenticity, is to blame. This problem is repairable, though. In the collaboration between KyCAD and the Louisville Ballet, the Kentucky College of Art + Design’s Choreographer’s Showcase highlighted the importance of breaking down this barrier so that we can present authentic identities and produce meaningful relationships. In doing so, we can overcome technology’s hold on our selfhood.

Throughout the evening, Louisville Ballet dancers performed works created by choreographers and KyCAD artists, Matt Weir, Justin Michael Hogan, Josh Azzarella, Xavier Pellin, Bobby Barbour, Sanjay Saverimuttu, Jake Ford, Aubrielle Whitis and Dominic Guarnaschelli. The performers, some in show-specific costumes, others in what appeared to be standard ballet uniforms, treated viewers to a whimsical series of choreographed numbers amid dazzling lights, colors, and cinematic backdrops. However, these performances were not confined to a single room. Rather, each dance took place in separate spaces throughout the gallery. Some rooms were spacious, with numerous chairs for guests to sit and watch with unobstructed views. Other rooms were smaller, with openings that allowed fewer guests to watch the performances at one time. Often, in these cozier spaces, the audience would catch glimpses of a performance as they vied for views around corners and walls. This limiting of the audience’s visual knowledge was not unplanned, though. Instead, this unusual, spatial setup, along with electronically produced lights, sounds, and sights, suggested the correlation between the digital world and tailored appearances.

To challenge the audience further, two performances occurred concurrently in different rooms. Audience members had to consider whether or not to give up their space watching one show in favor of catching a glimpse of another or miss one performance entirely. In a nomadic fashion, spectators travelled from one show to another, looking to others for cues indicating when to visit a simultaneous performance. In this way, audience members themselves became performers for other viewers who were unsure about where to look, when to clap, or how to respond. This phenomenon is not specific to this show, however. Instead, it is quite similar to an occurrence found online. In our digital world, our time and energy are constantly pulled in countless directions, and our identities are often swayed by what we see in others’ online lives.

The showcase was not solely a one-sided event, though. Instead, because of the lighting and staging, performers themselves were treated to views of the audience, as they shifted, moved, and observed. Only occasionally elevated by a low stage, the dancers usually performed at ground-level with the audience, moving on and off stage through a sea of spectators. With this mingling of audience and dancers, the showcase blended traditionally fixed identities, i.e. audience and performers, thus creating a liminal space in which this multi-layered show took place. Viewers were both audience members and performers, never entirely inhabiting one identity.

Throughout the Kentucky College of Art + Design’s Choreographer’s Showcase, the audience’s time was purposefully pulled in numerous directions, their viewpoints were limited, and their identities became unfixed. In doing so, the showcase successfully presented its audience with a literal depiction of the unstable world in which technology has placed them, a creative achievement that perhaps launched contemplations and conversations regarding the dismantling or breaking down of technology’s barriers.