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Digging It 

Otherworldly dance group Capacitor peels back the Earth's layers

Wednesday, Oct 19 2005
Even while surrounded by fault lines and periodically moving ground, many of us in the Bay Area forget about the essential nature of the spinning rock we call home. But when it comes to an awareness of planetary conditions, the otherworldly dance group Capacitor is always on the ball. Committed to combining performance with technology and science, the company has previously produced projects that have concentrated on everything from genetic evolution, reproduction, and video-game heroes to relational circuits. Now, in Digging in the Dark, Capacitor's dancers wrap their arms, legs, and brains around the concept of earthly layers: the continental crust, the lithosphere (the tectonic plates beneath the continental crust), the mantle, the outer core, and the inner core, which here also represent human strength, responsibility, love, ethics, and spirit.

To Jodi Lomask, the 30-year-old choreographer who leads Capacitor, our planet and our selves have much in common. "If you dig deep enough into the Earth, you realize that it's just an energetic force field holding things together," she says. "And if you go deep enough into a person, it's the same. All we are is a vibration, a force, an energetic phenomenon."

Digging in the Dark was developed, like all of the company's work, through the Capacitor Lab, a creative think tank composed of prominent scientists, engineers, mathematicians, motion-capture animators, and artists who share ideas and create dances based on scientific principles. The show consists of two acts: In the first, the performers dive into the Earth to reach the core; in the second, they climb out. All the while, the layers of the planet double as metaphors for human qualities and processes.

One dancer maps the Earth as a geophysicist might, by sending sound waves to another performer, who personifies the planet's response. In this duet, balls are bounce-juggled on a slab of marble, signaling a sound-sensitive computer program to digitally uncover sections of a giant map that's projected above the stage. Lomask compares this piece to a dance between strangers, suggesting that to truly know one another we must go beyond vision and share sound or conversation.

Another section of the work finds six dancers entwined on a giant metal orb suspended above the stage. The group slowly splits apart until no one is left, illustrating not only the nothingness at the Earth's inner core, but also the unraveling of community, belief systems, and ego.

In other segments, the tough, protective surface of the Earth is represented by movements that imitate bodybuilding, and the journey through the sturdy lithosphere is suggestive of female strength. Through dance, sound, and light, Digging uses our giant rock as a way to understand ourselves and even our hearts. For example, the piece relates the mantle -- a slow-moving middle layer filled with molten rock -- to both the Earth's and our own emotional body, where "things don't change very quickly," says Lomask, "but small shifts can render huge consequences."

About The Author

Karen Macklin


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