Annex Dance Company is providing audiences an opportunity to imagine digital spaces in new ways with “V3: A Dance Installation” by creating a fourth dimension through movement. The show takes place in the same space where contemporary museum-goers can immerse themselves in artist Carla Gannis’ artificial intelligence universe through virtual reality goggles and other multimedia works. 

As part of its residency with the College of Charleston Department of Theatre and Dance, Annex will have two more performances within the Gannis’ installation called wwwunderkammer that is currently on view at Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art. 

“We knew [“V3: A Dance Installation”] would push our boundaries,” said Kristen Alexander, artistic director. “We took history, all of our research on coding and really thought about what that meant to us as creatives.” 

Gannis’ installation is a real-world manifestation of the VR (virtual reality) experience that she built in 2020 called wwwunderkammer. Colorful and psychedelic moving image work, digital drawings and holographic sculptures focus on key elements and spaces which exist in Gannis’ wwwunderkammer, and ground them into a physical space. 

To music that embodied the otherworldly feel of the wwwunderkammer, Annex dancers began by moving and dancing through the audience. As they rolled and lifted one another throughout the gallery space, Their audible breathing enlivened the exhibit surrounding them. 

Though the show was teased as a performance that pushes boundaries for audience and performers, in reality, the experience only asks viewers to listen and follow the dancers as they walk the audience through the exhibition space. V3: A Dance Installation is an experience for various ages. 

A key element of Annex Dance Company’s performance was the immersive chamber tucked behind the main gallery space. 

“Your journey to death will guide us,” a dancer said as half the viewers were guided into a back room carpeted and wallpapered with intense, saturated color. “Come join us in this chamber.” 

Viewers were encouraged to use their phones to enliven the avatars decorating the walls of the room through augmented reality (AR) while dancers continued performing. 

After watching Annex Dance Company’s moving installation, viewers can drift into Johanna Foundation Video Cavern — which houses a series of expert interviews played on continual loop, set in the wwwunderkammer — to ruminate that fourth dimension freshly opened by the dancers. For example, an interview with New York University professor of media Ahmed Ansari (digitized as a cat avatar) discusses decolonization in design and the importance of instilling awareness in students. These digitized interviews seem to be a key tool in parsing Gannis’ show and the Annex Dance Company’s stab at vitalizing it through a live, interactive performance.

IF YOU PLAN TO GO:  “V3: A Dance Installation” will be performed next at Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art on June 8 at 6:30 p.m. No ticket needed. 

Natalie Rieth is an arts journalism graduate student at Syracuse University.

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