On the Surface, New Dance Work “Afoot in Vienna” is About Staying Grounded

Bowen McCauley Dance presents “Afoot in Vienna,” a new 20-minute work, November 17 at Artisphere. Artistic director/Choreographer Lucy Bowen McCauley collaborates with Austrian composer and visual artist Wolfgang Seierl on the modern and minimalist piece, which explores how dance surfaces effect movement.

Seierl was interested in sensory feedback theory, which tells us the brain receives 70 percent of our movement information from the neural endpoints on our root bases. The more we feel the ground, the more naturally our locomotor system functions.

BMD Company members rehearse “Afoot in Vienna.”

Bowen McCauley and Seierl worked together in Vienna, Austria, where Seierl shot video footage of Lucy moving and dancing in a variety of public spaces on different surfaces — a creaky wood floor, pavement, sand, grass, stone steps. The video footage served as inspiration for Bowen McCauley’s choreography and an original electronic score that Seierl will perform live on electric guitar. Seirel chose eight scenes from the video and gave Lucy these eight sections to put into any order she wanted.

Video projections will be a moving backdrop that supports the live dance and music performance. “Through this movement exploration I have found that our environment dictates how we move, and therefore in one sense all movement and dance is site-specific,” says Bowen McCauley. “I’ve found that the surfaces not only affect a dancer physically, effecting balance and traction, but also emotionally.”

The two wanted the work to be conceived organically, from the ground up.  It was a challenge to stay rooted in the sensations and restrictions of what was happening in the video. “It is more challenging to do a piece like this that is more contained, where the beauty comes from the inside out — rather than a big piece that is all about the outer beauty,” she says. “This piece was more like a reduction or distillation.” The video is gritty and has an unproduced, unembellished quality and an intimate feel to it, as Seierl can be heard giving Lucy instructions.

BMD and Seierl last collaborated on “Time and Clouds,” performed last year at the Kennedy Center.

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