Known for his ground-breaking use of technology, Alexander Whitley has built a reputation for creating innovative contemporary dance shows from intellectual concepts. His new show, Overflow, a mediation on what it means to be human in the era of big data, is already gaining huge plaudits for it’s mix of dance and varied media. Damian Robinson spoke with Alexander before Overflow’s performance at Newcastle’s Dance City.
The premise for Overflow sounds fascinating, could you give us a hint at where that came from?
Broadly speaking the show was inspired by the role of technology and big data and how they are radically transforming how we experience and act. I was reading some interesting works a couple of years ago about where this might lead humans towards, such as how human emotions are a prized commodity and how surveillance capitalism changes the way we experience the world – and those ideas became the general theme that informed my work.
Wow – and how were you able to take those challenges and place them onto stage?
I try to think about how can dance deal with a given subject, and what movements would interpret those emotions, and then move onto work with collaborators. With the ideas that emotions might be the prime commodity in the global economy, that felt like a topic we could bring to life in the dance space with certain movements and feelings.
The show looks visually amazing, almost like something McQueen or Massive Attack would create.
Thank you, we’ve worked with Children of the Light to create a kinetic light sculpture which is designed to act as a seventh cast member. The light represents the constant presence of technology as well as the notion of surveillance and the presence of an oversee-er. We then have amazing costumes by Ana Rajcevic as well as an original score by Rival Consoles, whose music fits really well with the piece. I think Newcastle has a really good music scene and I think that’ll be a really important part of the show in Newcastle. If you take a look at my website you can hear some of the score, and see some of the visuals from the show, which might give you a sense of how those elements blend with the dance movements.
Aside from the music is there anything particularly special we can expect from the Newcastle showing?
I grew up in Cumbria so I was in Newcastle often and have really great memories of performing there and going out there. This will be the first time my company has been to Newcastle, and I can’t wait to bring the work to the area.
Overflow will play at Newcastle’s Dance City on the 26th March. You can find more about the show, including the mentioned video here https://www.alexanderwhitley.com/overflow