Loop Theory, an experimental-improvisational-music-dance-Xbox-collaborative-interdisciplinary-interactive performance ran from Thursday 22 September to Saturday 24 September 2011 at the Substation. Loop Theory features dancers Sherry Tay, Christina Chan, Bernice Lee and Jereh Leong, performer Natalie Wong and musician-programmer Ho Wen Yang and Nicholas Lin. Not forgetting of course, the oft-neglected stage crew – Muhammad Isyraf Bin Sabtu was in charge of lighting, and Alisa Ang the stage manager.
I arrived early on Friday night (23 September) and browsed through the performance pamphlet while waiting to be let into the theatre.
I knew that Loop Theory was supposed to be about some collaborative-feedback-loop thing going on between the music, the Xbox Kinect sensor and the dancers’ movements. In fact, the feedback-loop has been reversed as the Loop Theory dancers create the soundtrack to their performance with their movements, whereas traditionally, dance has always responded and been choreographed to an already-composed musical piece. I analyzed the pamphlets’ introductory text, trying to cerebrally domesticate these words and parse them into some sort of reasonable expectation of the performance.
Then Christina appeared.
She is a petite bundle of energy, lithely hopping from one foot to another. She held out her hand to me and introduced herself, and told me to “vote for her”.
Tan Tan Tan Tan rang in my head — huh?! Vote?!
She bounced off to another dude standing nearby, repeated everything she had said to me and told him to vote for her. I remember thinking to myself that I could never be a performer because I would be too paiseh to do things like that with people I don’t even know.
Enter into the performance theatre.
The audience is split into four groups, and the seats are arranged around a stage in the centre. It feels a bit like Who wants to be a Millionaire. I pick a front row seat and note little cards below the seats. There are also two cushions in front of each audience section, as well as four different ‘bases’ like a softball diamond. Cool.
The performance started with the four dancers being introduced as avatars, like in Street Fighter you know. Each avatar has a name, like the Wanderer, the Alluring, etc. Each avatar also has his/her special power, and his/her respective Achilles’ heel. The “emcee” of the evening was the Gamemaster, who looked like she just walked out of a 1990s computer game also. Or maybe some Children’s Show TV set.
The Gamemaster was instrumental in coordinating the audience interaction with the dancers – kind of like how the Xbox Kinect sensor is the nexus between the musical soundtrack and the dancers’ movements I guess. The Gamemaster dished out instructions, balls, donuts and more to an excited audience.
When she gave out balls, we the audience threw them energetically at the dancers – because each section of the audience had to root for one dancer/avatar, and sabotage the other 3. After awhile we were instructed to stop throwing balls, but a naughty member of the audience continued throwing balls at the other dancers. The Gamemaster quickly became a referee as if it were a boxing match, reigning in our atavistic tendencies.