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Posted on Thu 24 Jul 2014


Kicking the Mic Lunchtime Talk Write-up

Last Friday, Studio resident Laura Kriefman gave our last Lunchtime Talk of the summer. She spoke to us about her upcoming performance, Kicking the Mic (taster video here), which she has been developing together with composer…

Laura in front of her LED backdrop

Laura in front of her LED backdrop

Last Friday, Studio resident Laura Kriefman gave our last Lunchtime Talk of the summer. She spoke to us about her upcoming performance, Kicking the Mic (taster video here), which she has been developing together with composer Lee Malcolm. The performance has been commissioned by this year’s Indonesian Mask Festival, which will take place in September. Kicking the Mic will fuse tap dancing, looping, live Midi manipulation of sound and wearable tech to allow one dancer (Laura) to create a richly layered composition of movement, light and sound. The performance aims to create a three-way conversation between the audience, the dancer and the environment.

Laura told us about a performance that she took to Indonesia last year called ‘Captured in Stone', which, like Kicking the Mic involved live tap dance, but the musical loops she danced to and layered up were pre-recorded. This year, Laura wanted to use the sound of her live tap to generate the tracks and loops she moves to, creating a sort of mesmeric feedback loop of music and dance. The collaboration between dancer and composer, and the conception of the tracks themselves also fed into each other massively, and Laura and Lee composed and choreographed everything in unison. She wanted to explore the ‘Mask’ theme of the festival, and the idea that masks transform us, so she knew she needed something extraordinary to wear. This idea has blossomed into the creation of a fully reactive LED dress, which will be a sort of light show in itself, responding to the music.

The LED dress will be dynamic and respond to the layers of sounds, changing personality with every track. Different loops of sound will affect the environment of the dress; a tap drum roll may light up and animate the whole dress, while a soft melodic loop may create warm clusters of light here and there.

In the performance, Laura will dance on 4 wooden boards, which will each have a clip on guitar mic attached, to pick up all the sounds of her tap. The sound will be converted into different midi instruments, which will be controlled by a wireless remote controller attached to her arm. The controller will be made up of 16 large white buttons that light up when touched, so the audience can see that she is choosing a different instrument or sound and they can engage with that. Lee will also be on stage so he can react to Laura and the dance. She will be able to control the dynamics of the sounds she is creating by dancing closer or further from the mics attached to the boards.

Laura had set up some prototypes for the occasion, including the mic’d-up dance boards which turn tap into different midi instruments, and a backdrop of a sprawling network of neopixel LEDs which will eventually make their way into her reactive dress. Laura let the audience play and dance on the boards, while choosing different instruments for the midi output, to get a taste for how they might be used to compose.

Most of the show is now complete, with the exception of the dress. Laura has just returned from a three day sprint working with a costume designer who usually designs for circus performers. We will of course tweet some pictures of the dress-in-progress as soon as we have any - we can’t wait to see it either!