The latest dance "media" project causing a fuss in the wide world of dance is the 'Slow Dances' project by David Michalek, an artist of sorts who has chosen to point high speed film cameras at dancers, and little else!
Essentially, a dancer does a five second piece of movement filmed at approximately 1000 frames per second. The resulting "film" is about 10 minutes long since there are so many frames captured when shooting at that speed. When viewed on screen the effect is of a dancer moving through treacle, every detail of their body's motion is captured in almost perfect detail.
So far, so clever! To add to the "art'" of this project the resulting slices of dancers in slow motion are projected, giant size, onto the side of buildings because nothing says "art" and "multimedia" until you project it onto the side of a large structure.
If you're unfamiliar with the concept of high speed filming or "super slomo" then watching any sports programme will give you a good idea. Those slick action replays, although filmed at about 60-120 frames per second, have been around for years.
Now, you're probably thinking "wow" that sounds really cool and to a certain extent it is. Watching dancers carry out five seconds of movement over a period of ten minutes is very cool, isn't it? Or is it mind crushingly dull and a completer waste of the technology? You can decide for yourself by watching some of it on the projects website.
Perhaps the most well known use of slow motion photography in the cinema, in recent years, was the original Matrix film. A particular sequence in that movie involved the use of more than one hundred stills cameras and two high speed film cameras wrapped in a circle around actor Keanu Reeves. As Mr Reeves falls backwards to avoid being shot, by the bad guy, the camera appears to wrap around him in super slow motion as CGI bullets fly past him.
A significant amount of creative, technical and artistic know how was put into that sequence. Although in the later movies these practical techniques were supplanted for rather ineffective CGI sequences The Matrix stands out as pioneering example of the techniques applied for practical, creative purpose.
The difference between the sequences within The Matrix and Mr Michalek's work however is obvious, at least to us. In the feature film, the photography and the visual effects were used as tools to illustrate a broader point of the character within the film's story line. In 'Slow Dances' the technology is being used simply because the artist has access to it and for no other reason.
Mr Michalek claims, in the New York Times, that this type of video technology is "still in the prototype phase". This could not be further from the truth. Developments on high speed filming began as far back as the 1930's and slow motion techniques have been used in commercial film making for decades (Kato vs Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies in the 70's for one).
In fact, if you have the money, anyone can hire ultra high speed camera equipment for the day, and a lot of lights, and shoot your own super slow dance film in a matter of days.
Snooty art types are often quick to lament the quality of "Hollywood" style film making that is more interested in visual-fx than story telling. They are right most of the time on that score as anyone who has seen 'Transformers' will tell you. However; When such vapid techniques are applied to an "arts" project it becomes worthy of a New York Time's feature and everybody points and goes "oooooh" when really, it's just as bad as 'Transformers'.
As one of our guys said recently in a comment on another website, this stuff is "creatively bankrupt".