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Steven Holl and Jessica Lang merge dance and architecture in a compression of time and space

United States Architecture News - Oct 23, 2015 - 16:23   6880 views

Tesseracts of Time set mock up

all images courtesy of Steven Holl Architects

Watch Tesseracts of Time Trailer

Steven Holl Architects and Jessica Lang are proud to present the world premiere of Tesseracts of Time; a brand new work commissioned by the Chicago Architecture Biennial, premiering at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Chicago on Friday, November 6. Both Architecture and dance share a passion for space and light in time, however they are on opposite ends of the spectrum with respect to time. Architecture is one of the arts of longest duration, while the realization of a dance piece can be a quick process and the work disappears as the performance of it unfolds. Corresponding to the four seasons, but within a twenty minute period, the collaboration between choreographer Jessica Lang and Steven Holl merge dance and architecture in a compression of time and space.

“The body moving through space in time is a central experience of both architecture and dance,” said Steven Holl. “To collaborate on a ‘Dance for Architecture’ with Jessica Lang is an inspiring chance to experiment with the merging of the two arts, focusing on time, form, light, and movement.”

“Collaboration is an essential part of making great art,” said Jessica Lang. “Having the opportunity to work intensely with architect Steven Holl on Tesseracts of Time has been a valuable process that will inform my work well beyond the creation of this piece. Together, we have pushed the boundaries of dance and architecture and the result will awaken the human imagination.” 

The four sections of the dance correspond to the four types of architecture: Under the ground, In the ground, On the ground, and Over the ground. 

preparatory Study by Steven Holl in collaboration with Jessica Lang. Meeting of May 24, 2015 

The first section ‘Under’ begins with a slow movement of sunlight coming from above, sweeping across the curved interior spaces of the architecture. The dance physically vibrates in the dark shadows of the stage. Dancers are dressed in black geometric and angular costumes. Their movement is grounded and driven with linear thought to the percussive score Anvil Chorus by David Lang. 

Steven Holl and  Jessica Lang 

For the second section ‘In’, compressed spatial sequences filled in deep light are projected in film. The dance movement defies gravity and explores geometry with emotional expression. Space and body in black and white work in synchrony with the minimalist piano music Patterns in a Chromatic Field by Morton Feldman. 

The third section ‘On’—all in white—reveals on stage three twelve-foot-tall Tesseract Fragments. In geometry, the tesseract is the four-dimensional analog of a cube. In dance, the movement explores space now present in the 3rd dimension of the stage. The music is percussive, prepared piano The Perilous Night by John Cage. 

The fourth section ‘Over’, begins with the tension of sound and energy as the Tesseracts rise upwards to the music Metastaseis by lannis Xenakis. Unlike the previous sections, bursting color floods the stage with dancers in asymmetrical colors of oranges and reds. Arvo Pärt’s Solfeggio takes shape in a synthesis of chromatic forms as the dance releases like a sunrise into intensely lyrical and hypnotic meditative phrases. 

In this work, one can imagine the four stages like the four seasons which are compressed into just twenty minutes. With 525,600 minutes in one year, this compressed ratio would render an average human life as four years. Like Seasons, the ending returns to the darkness of ‘UNDER’ at the beginning. No beginning, no ending.

“Seeing the creative process behind Tesseracts of Time and working with Jessica and Steven, and the Chicago Architecture Biennial, to bring it to life has been an especially rewarding mission,” said Harris Theater President and Managing Director Michael Tiknis. “The natural collaboration between these two visionaries was magic, and the work is so rich as a result. Presenting the world premiere of Tesseracts of Time will be the Harris’ distinct honor. With the Joyce Theater Foundation and Houston Society for the Performing Arts as co-commissioners alongside the Harris, this collaboration will continue to make its mark across the country.”

sketch by Steven Holl, draws up the stage and fragmanted design pieces

The architecture used in the dance was developed through a research project called ‘Explorations of IN.’ This project started June 2014 at Steven Holl Architects and explores questions of architectural language. It aims to re-value the Art of Architecture.

Lang and Holl carefully chose music that has influenced them both in their individual work, and for its architectonic qualities, studied at Columbia University’s design program The Architectonics of Music, led by Steven Holl and Dimitra Tsachrelia. This “dance for architecture” is set to music by David Lang, Morton Feldman, John Cage, Iannis Xenakis and Arvo Pärt. 

Project Facts

Tesseracts of Time

Concept: Steven Holl in collaboration with Jessica Lang
Directed and Choreographed by: Jessica Lang
Architectural Design Direction: Dimitra Tsachrelia
Music: David Lang, Morton Feldman, John Cage, Iannis Xenakis and Arvo Pärt Lighting Design: Nicole Pearce

Costume Design: Bradon McDonald
Filming and editing: Ruoyu Wei
Film Consultant: Milan Misko
Stage set Construction: Paper Mâché Monkey
‘Explorations of IN’ project team: Ruoyu Wei, Yuliya Savelyeva

Dancers: Clifton Brown, Randy Castillo, Julie Fiorenza, John Harnage, Eve Jacobs, Kana Kimura, Laura Mead, Milan Misko, Jammie Walker

Lead Commissioner: Chicago Architecture Biennial
Commissioning Partners: John and Caroline Ballantine, Sandra and Jack Guthman, Michael and Sharon Tiknis through the Imagine campaign, Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Society for the Performing Arts, and The Joyce Theater Foundation.

This project was made possible with support from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, The Harkness Foundation for Dance, Charles & Deborah Adelman, and the Dau Family Foundation

Special thank you to Sarah Herda, Michael Tiknis, Jay Franke and Margaret Selby 

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