Tickets Remain Available For Atlanta Premiere Of Kinetic Light DESCENT At Georgia Tech
Showcasing another impactful intersection of arts and technology, the Georgia Tech Office of Arts will present choreographer and disability arts innovator Alice Sheppard and the Kinetic Light team for the Atlanta premiere of "DESCENT" at the Ferst Center for the Arts on Nov. 23 at 8 p.m.
Remaining available tickets are $15 to $25 for the public, available by phone at 404-894-9600 or online via www.arts.gatech.edu. Accessible seating is available by calling the box office (see below for additional venue accessibility details).
Inspired by the sensual writings and art of French sculptor Auguste Rodin, "DESCENT" gives the mythological characters of Venus and Andromeda new life as interracial lovers. Sheppard and fellow dancer Laurel Lawson command the stage in and out of the wheelchairs they use in life and performance, showing an entire spectrum of beauty while introducing new possibilities of movement.
Performed on a custom-designed architectural ramp installation with hills, curves and peaks, "DESCENT" explores the pleasures of wheeled movement and reckless abandon. Combining dance, architecture, design, and technology, the duet takes audiences on a transformative ride and obliterates cultural assumptions of what disability, dance and beauty can be. 'DESCENT' had an East Coast debut last year in New York, earning advance recognition from Brian Schaefer of The New York Times.
"Ms. Sheppard has been an innovator in disability arts, and this work illustrates just how much she's expanded the notion of physicality in dance," wrote Schaefer in his preview of Kinetic Light's performance at New York Live Arts in Manhattan.
"One could argue that, with [its] architectural ramp, 'DESCENT' is actually a trio-poetic, passionate and, frankly, haaaawwwt," wrote veteran dance critic and Gibney Dance Senior Curatorial Director Eva Yaa Asantewaa. "Sheppard and Lawson are remarkably precise, electric performers."
Sheppard and Lawson employ, manipulate, lift and bend their bodies in a signature choreographic language. The sensuality of the work is palpable, and risk is interwoven throughout as wheels fly precariously close to the edge of the ramp with its installation measuring nearly six feet tall and spanning 24 by 15 feet of stage space.
The structure is more than a set piece: it offers an entire alternate universe for Venus and Andromeda to explore and inhabit. It was designed by Sara Hendren, a Massachusetts-based artist, design researcher and writer who collaborated with physics professor Yevgeniya Zastavker and a team of first-year engineering students from Olin College in Needham, Mass. Hendren pushed to make the ramp a work of art by designing for beauty and wheeled movement potential, not simply for Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance and essential mobility needs. This tailored approach to set design received recognition in the field as "DESCENT" won a production design award was featured at the USITT Design Expo and Prague Quadrennial earlier this year.
Kinetic Light will be in residence at Georgia Tech for five days prior to the Nov. 23 performance, meeting with the campus and Atlanta community to share information and insight about disability, technology, arts and design. The performance includes access to Audimance, a new mobile app for listening to dance in development through a partnership with Kinetic Light.
"'DESCENT' is about movement pleasure: the joy of flying freely downhill, and the pleasure of pushing uphill," said Sheppard. "I've wanted something as risky, challenging and beautiful as 'DESCENT' for years.
"Ultimately, I knew no one else was going to make a dance like this for me, so I gathered a team and over the course of the past few years, we passionately engaged ourselves into a complicated creative process," Sheppard added. "We created 'DESCENT' specifically to celebrate disability arts and culture and to demonstrate how disability is an artistic and creative force."
The team behind "DESCENT" is a uniquely specialized ensemble, making Kinetic Light the first collective led entirely by professional disabled artists. Based in Los Altos, Calif., and New York, Sheppard has been traveling the world dancing professionally for over a decade, performing with such companies as AXIS Dance Company from Oakland, Calif., and Marc Brew Company in the United Kingdom. She started making her own work in 2012, and "DESCENT" is Sheppard's most ambitious project to date. She appeared on the cover of Dance Magazine in July 2018, the first disabled artist featured since 2003. Sheppard also earned a New York Dance and Performance Award (a.k.a. Bessie Award) this year for what Art Forum described as an honor "for boldly and authentically inventing new movement vocabularies full of supercharged physicality and nuanced detail ... working with gravity, mechanics, human connection and momentum, she creates work of power and empowerment.
Lawson, Sheppard's collaborator and fellow dancer in "DESCENT," is co-founder and chief technology officer at CyCore Systems in Decatur, Ga. She is a sled hockey athlete, and Lawson performs as a dancer with Atlanta's Full Radius Dance, where she trained extensively since 2004 and for 2019-2020, she was named an inaugural Dance/USA Artist Fellow. She is one of the only performers well matched for collaborating with Sheppard in the adventurous athleticism demanded by the "DESCENT" ramp.
Michael Maag is an accomplished lighting designer and disabled artist who performs more than 300 responsive light and video cues in "DESCENT." Previously he served as resident lighting designer at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) for over 15 years, where he was pivotal in building an accessible outdoor stage.
Under the direction and artistic leadership of Alice Sheppard, Kinetic Light is a project-based ensemble of three disabled artists committed to intersectional disability aesthetics and culture, and accessibility, as central parts of the art and creative process. Working in the disciplines of art, technology, design and dance, Kinetic Light creates, performs and teaches at the nexus of access, disability, dance and race. In the ensemble's work, intersectional disability is an aesthetic, a culture and an essential element of their artistry.
Through rigorous investment in the histories, cultures and artistic work of people with disabilities and people of color, Kinetic Light promotes disability as a creative force enabling them to create visceral transformative art that engages critical contemporary questions. In 2018, Kinetic Light made its Jacob's Pillow debut (as part of the Inside/Out Performance Series), performed at the Whitney Museum, and produced sold-out runs of 'DESCENT,' the ensemble's first evening-length work. Also in 2018, the readers of Dance Magazine voted 'DESCENT' the year's most moving performance, and 2019 includes a U.S. tour, the release of the dance film "Revel In Your Body," and numerous awards for Kinetic Light.
Kinetic Light offers an audio version of the in-house program for nonvisual audiences, and an American Sign Language interpreter is present at the show. Large format print programs will be available. A tactile 3D lobby experience offers audience members an entry point into understanding the ramp installation as a landscape of physics and can be experienced through sight and also through touch. The artists also offer access training and engagement programming for theater staff as part of a learning curve to welcoming DESCENT fans. The ensemble also works with presenters to employ accessible marketing strategies such captioned videos and photos. For more information, visit KineticLight.org.
The Georgia Tech Office of the Arts embeds creative experiences into the lives and learning of Georgia Tech students, the broader campus community and the greater Atlanta region. Performances of the 2019-2020 Georgia Tech Arts season take place at the recently renovated Ferst Center for the Arts, 349 Ferst Drive NW, Atlanta, Ga. 30332. For tickets to Kinetic Light's "DESCENT" - priced at $15 to $25 for the general public and $10 for youth or students - contact the Ferst Center Box Office at 404-894-9600, Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Information and online tickets are available at www.arts.gatech.edu and arts.gatech.edu/content/kinetic-light-descent.
The Ferst Center for the Arts is an accessible venue and provides several services to assist patrons. The lobby is accessible via the main entrance double doors facing the student center, with accessible parking in the W02/Area 3 Student Center Parking Deck and the Visitor Area 2 Lot, which also features a drop-off zone approximately 100 yards to the main entrance via a smooth-surface sidewalk and ramp (click here for a map). An assistive listing system is available by request for patrons who are hard-of-hearing (please request in advance). Venue restrooms, water fountains and ticket counters are also wheelchair accessible from the main lobby. For additional information, to request accessibility services, or purchase wheelchair-accessible seating, please call the box office at 404-894-9600 or Georgia Tech Arts at 404-894-2787.