On an 80-degree evening in April, I sensed the crowd’s excitement for ZviDance’s new Zoom at Dance Theater Workshop. The evening-length work was publicized as an integration of “dance, cell phones, video, projection, a real-time web interface and live music.” I was curious how they were going to fit all that into one dance.
Inspired by cultural phenomena like Twitter, YouTube, and the recently launched iPad, Zoom provides a current commentary on society’s increasing fascination with—and dependence on—technology.
As the audience filtered into DTW’s theater, a large screen welcomed the audience to take pictures and send text messages to the number listed on the screen during the performance. Even seasoned theatergoers discarded standard cell phone etiquette; seconds after the invitation appeared, sounds of ringing, buzzing, and the occasional pop song reverberated in the space.
As the dance progressed, audience texting and picture-taking died down. Perhaps they were enthralled with the dancers’ technical capabilities as they filled the space with quirky gestures and weight-sharing partnering sequences. The choreography showcased the cast’s impeccable technique, but didn’t always lend itself to the work’s theme. The emphasis on cell phone usage and transmitting messages wasn’t effectively integrated in the work. Instead, it felt like watching two separate dances.
That is, until a dancer walked on stage with a Mac laptop and began instant messaging. Her words were instantly displayed onscreen, and the crowd was able to reply. Texts ranged from “beautiful dancing” to “the person behind me farted.” As she concluded her chat time, the dancers returned as if the technological interlude was only a dream.
In the following section, the cast emerged in street clothes with cell phones in hand, looking more like text-obsessed adolescents than trained dancers. While they typed away, audience members’ cell phones began to go off like a national telethon. They then found their respected caller and initiated a face-to-face introduction. Audience members were bashful, like they were meeting their Match.com date for the first time. This section was the most poignant, because it effectively captured the audience’s vulnerability.
Zoom concluded with a man and woman dancing in two separate pools of light. Their relationship differed from the previous duets in that they made no physical contact or acknowledgement of one another. The separation between them—both spatially and emotionally—defied the work’s playful tone. Instead of demonstrating how new platforms for communication have brought people closer together, the dancers were disconnected not only from each other but from the outside world.
ZviDance executed the work with technical prowess, glimpses of wit and emotional depth. Although it didn’t provide a yes or no answer to the ever-impending question, “Is all this technology a good thing?” Zoom did showcase virtuosic dancers, and possibilities for the theater as an interactive space.