1985 – Four-part evening-length space odyssey (Part I: Departure; Part II: Quest; Part III, Domain; Part IV, Rites/Skylight/and Departure) of choreography that takes place inside a large-scale installation of argon laser beams created by Rockne Krebs and Synclavier II music by Bob Boilen. Laser beams originating from upstage center and project toward 50 mirrors placed in Lisner Auditorium walls and on stage. When the beams are interrupted (human body or stilts) the visual grid of beams would be altered on stage and above the audience in the house. Sound installation by Bob Boilen with Synclavier II electronic instrument is a riveting score, generously enhancing the choreography by Maida Withers.
“The space odyssey was one of several works that reveal my curiosity about man/woman on planet earth, but more about life in ‘the universe.’ Laser is a myth of sorts where dancers come from someplace and occupy the ‘installation’ and exit. The FDA spent almost 6 hours the day of performance approving the laser installation. It was important to insure that no beams would impact (eyes) dancers or the audience. As dancers, we covered our bodies with costumes and shoes and we wore protective goggles. This was an extraordinary “mythic” existence.” Maida Withers
Performing in laser beams is a challenge. The beams need darkness or an atmosphere in the air that allows the laser beam to be seen. This created difficulties in taking photos and video of the production.
Choreography: Maida Withers
Laser Sculptor: Rockne Krebs (deceased)
Stilts: Brook Andrews and Rockne Krebs
Synclavier II Composer: Bob Boilen
Producer: District Curators
Premiere: Lisner Auditorium, Washington, DC. June 6 & 7, 1985
Laser Dance (23:30 min) was shot on 16 mm film due to the darkness required for laser light to be seen. Video shot and edited by Linda Lewett.
Maida Withers Bob Boilen Rockne Krebs
Choreographer Composer Synclavier II Laser Artist
Laser Drawing – Rockne Krebs
Stilts in intense blue. Stilts made it possible for dancers to block the high laser beams.
What the press is saying
"Laser Dance...combines technology and movement in complex and wondrous ways...beautiful green beams creating a constantly changing sculpture through which the dancers cavort, both on feet and on stilts...all makes for one of the more ambitious and original arts events in this city's recent past. Pamela Sommers, The Washington Post Pamela Sommers
"It's a bold, imaginative, frequently striking, decidedly space-aging enterprise. If, in the end, it remains something of an enigma- its intentions and theme elusive, the logic of its unfolding only intermittently convincing..."
"The multiple media of "Laser Dance" are interdependent and interactive. As the dancers move,flanked by the lasers and surrounded by an ocean of sound, their bodies intercept the light beams, and thereby trigger prerecorded shifts in the synthesized music."
"The laser structures had a brilliance and atmosphere of their own, at once intense and ghostly, static and shimmering, suggesting now a cosmic corral and then an intergalactic cathedral of light; there was also something ominous about them, like Darth Vader's sword." Alan M. Kriegsman
"Tripping the Laser Fantastic"
Dancing with a laser beam is no easy matter. That's what choreographer Maida Withers and the eight other members of the Dance Construction Co. have discovered during their six-month collaboration with laser artist Rockne Krebs." "For starters, you can't always see the beam, even when your hand or leg is passing directly through it. Then there is the "intensity" factor, requiring the dancers to wear protective clothing and goggles. To make things even more challenging, the goggles affect depth perception and the ability to pick up green and blue hues." "These hardships, though, are more than worth it when the result is a work like Laser Dance. The evening-length piece, which will be performed Friday night at Lisner Auditorium, combines technology and movement in complex and often wondrous ways. Krebs' beautiful green argon laser beams reflect off a number of mirrors, creating a constantly changing "sculpture through which the dancers cavort, both on foot and on stilts. Accompanying this wealth of visual stimuli is composer Bob Boilen's dramatically pulsing score, a mix of taped passages performed on digital synthesizer and live contributions by Boilen and ex-Urban Verbs member Robert Goldstein. It all makes for one of the more ambitious and original homegrown arts evening in this city's recent past." Clay Warnick
General and long ariticle about Maida Withers - an interview during the time Laser Dance was being constructed.
"Maida has identified the "raw physical motion" of dancers as the central force of her work. She structures this in intricate ways. Dancers are her main collaborators, but she has often asked poets, visual artists and musicians to contribute to building a piece.
..."Movement flows out of me excessively rapidly. I have more movement than I can choreograph. I work knowledgeably. I know how I want it done. My instinct is always just to become enamored in the work, and not necessarily how well it is going to work for the audience.
..."In reflecting back, sometimes I get really choked up, and I wonder what I have done and what this means. If it means anything."
Anne: "It is impossible to imagine how much dance would actually have been available to Washington audiences over the last couple of decades without Maida. Through her long association with George Washington University shehas brought many important artists here for workshops and performances - artists like Yvonne Rainer, Meredith Monk and Kei Takei. She has supported many local artists, both through collaboration and by offering her energies to productions. Her own experiments over the last ten years have also helped to educate audiences in the political and choreographic challenges that concerned other artists. The works have ranged from scripted improvisations with humanitarian themes to taut abstractions. Her curiosity has taken her to Theodore Roosevelt Island, the Iwo Jima Memorial and the Holy Rood Cemetery in Washington, where she was investigating environments and find audiences." much more Ann Pierce
Maida Withers, D.C.'s Dance Revolutionary.
"What I want to create is tomorrow!" Kim Marshall
"In recent years Maida Withers has been occupied with finding positive relationships between artists and technology. Laser Dance for the Dance Construction Company (Lisner Auditorium, June 13) is her most ambitious and risky collaboration to date. Dazzled by the potential of laser beams as a new light source, Withers initiated the project with famed laser sculptor Rockne Krebs and composer Bob Boilen. As the dancers in sleek red spacesuits and protective goggles, move through Krebs' three-dimensional light structures, they trigger Boilen's synthesizer score. There were moments of great beauty when green light beams and fog, heavy metal sounds and questing movement seemed on the verge of a new synthesis. The dancing featured intricate partnering, a treacherous stilt ritual as well as dreamy dippings and glidings." Sali Ann Kriegsman
Laser Dance: A step into the interarts arena.
"With the premiere of Laser Dance last Thursday night at Lisner Auditorium, a collaborative effort between Krebs (laser sculptor), choreographer Maida Withers and musician Bob Boilen, Washington art has stepped resoundingly into an interarts arena which until now has been almost exclusively the domain of the New York avant-garde."
"This movement (second movement) opened with the dancers awkwardly traversing the stge on red and blue stilts. This was followed by a series of rightly choreographed interactions here the stilts were employed in a number of imaginataive ways: now appearing to be weapons, now musical instruments, now extensions of the dancers themselves."
"The best part of the show took place over the heads of the audience where Mr. Krebs' lasers created immense at's cradles, pentagons, and hostly pyramids of green light. gazing up through these, one's ears full of the weird, driving music, the viewer was transported. Unfortunately, one's attention was also transported from the activities on stage." Michael Welzenbach
Tripping the Laser Fantastic (Weekends Best)
Krebs beautiful green argon laser beams reflect off a number of mirrrors, creating a constantly changing "sculpture" through which the dancers cavort, both on foot and on stilts." "Accompanying this wealth of visual stimuli is composer Bob Boilen's dramatically pulsing score, a mi of taped passages performed on digital synthesizer and live contributions by Boilen and ex-Urban Verbs member Robert Goldstein. It all makes for one of the more ambitious and original homegrown arts events in this city's recent past." Pamela Sommers
'The lasers light will emanate from behind the stage, guided by six mirrors located at various sites throughout the auditorium. Working with such a powerful instrument requires certain precautions, Krebs must file his plans with the Bureau of radiological Health. cerain sets inthe house will be cardoned off. And then there's the performers' safety to consider. The beam is not intense enough to burn the skin,but it is certainly intense enough to burn the eyes. As a result, the dancers will wear protective goggles, which have their own drawbacks - they eliminate green-blue light, at times depriving the dancers of depth perception and other visual amenities." Pamela Sommers
Artists and Collaborators
- Laser Design
- Musician / Synclavier II
- Light Design
- Costume Design
- Video Editors
- Production Facilities
- Film and Video Director
- (map) on June 6, 1985