– Kinetic Light – DESCENT

A dancer balances on the footplate of her partner's wheelchair, with arms spread wide, wheelchair wheels spinning. The other dancer opens her arms to receive her in an embrace. A starry sky fills the background, and moonlight glints off their wheels. Laurel Lawson and Alice Sheppard of Kinetic Light; photo by BRITT / Jay Newman.

DESCENT models a truth rarely understood among dance audiences: Disability does not signify incompleteness.”

–Kevin Gotkin, Dance Magazine

From the imagination of disability arts innovator Alice Sheppard, and in collaboration with the artists from the collective Kinetic Light, DESCENT presents a thrilling experience— the release of leaning into a descent.

Performed on an architecture ramp installation with slopes, curves and peaks comer descent celebrates the pleasure of reckless abandon. It reimagines the Rodin sculpture of Greek mythological figure Andromeda and Venus on wheels flying, within inches of the ramp’s edges.

Online Programme

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Approx 1 hr

  • 粵語口述影像
  • 通達字幕
  • Accessible Captions

Act 1

(I) In a world of sky and water, Andromeda and Venus meet. Andromeda discovers herself at the peak, frantic and guarded. Her spirit guide observes. As she cautiously explores her environment, she is grabbed from below by Venus and drawn in. Venus reemerges in her world, inhabiting her environment unperturbed. Following her spirit guide, she is gradually intrigued.

(II) We see the ramp become itself. The waters undulate across its surface; rocks form; the ramp is alive.

(III) As the spirit guides slip into their bodies, Venus and Andromeda meet in a different world. Venus pushes her desire behind her; Andromeda pleads with Venus. Under and over the ramp and their chairs, the dancers wrap themselves around each other, accepting and rejecting their connection.

(IV) Spirit guides and bodies intertwined, Venus chooses Andromeda; Andromeda accepts Venus. The ramp and spirit guides take them and turn them slowly, inevitably towards each other.

Act 2

(I) Andromeda and Venus yield to each other. Light and the ramp transport them to a dream space.

(II) Upon their return, a separation rakes the lovers apart. Andromeda again retreats to the peak, pulling Venus up after her. The spirit guides separate from their bodies and observe. Each spying the other in their respective homelands, Andromeda and Venus seek to reconnect.

(III) The spirit guides leave Andromeda’s and Venus’ bodies. Tossed and turned by the ramp, Venus and Andromeda have only each other.

Artistic Director’s Note

On behalf of Kinetic Light, it is my joy to share DESCENT with you. If you are seeing DESCENT for the first time, welcome! If you have seen DESCENT before, I hope you will fall in love with Venus and Andromeda again.

We celebrate “No Limits”, its organisers, and the international premiere of the film DESCENT. We thank Northrop, University of Minnesota and Walker Art Center for supporting the creation of this film.

This show breaks ground on several fronts. While we’ve always loved livestreaming our performances, we never considered that online would one day be the primary way of sharing our beloved work with you. That we can make this film at all is due to the brilliance and generosity of the folks at the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center. During our stay there, we began our practice of accessible livestreaming with a five camera shoot. We were then able to use that footage as the basis of what you will see.

Since its very beginning, DESCENT has become a kind of proving ground for the intertwined practices of access and audio description. We are proud to offer tonight’s film in multiple accessible modes.

We invite you to experience DESCENT as both a sonic and a visual art form.

And then, there’s the ramp. Created specifically for this piece, the ramp is an artistic object and design experiment in kinetic potential and embodiment. It is also an active partner in the dance, generating new movements and new lines; it is not intended to be used functionally at all. The story of DESCENT is, in part, the story of the interactions of dancers and ramp.

DESCENT is also the story of Venus and Andromeda, the figures who lie intertwined in Auguste Rodin’s Toilette of Venus and Andromeda. No one knows why Rodin placed these two figures together; they do not belong to the same mythological worlds.

DESCENT dreams up a story for their love, using select Rodin sculptures as the basis of its movement vocabulary. As Kinetic Light’s artists embody the figures of Venus (traditionally interpreted as white) and Andromeda (described in classical texts as Ethiopian, but traditionally drawn as white), DESCENT counters the erasure of race in Western European histories of art.

DESCENT invites architects and designers to innovate at the edge of disability for maximum aesthetic and pleasurable expression of impairment instead of using technology to normalise, hide, or overcome. Kinetic Light is committed to access as being an integral part of our works, not a secondary accommodation. We invite artists and cultural works to think of access as an aesthetic.

A performance like this is made possible by many hearts and hands. I would like to send a heartfelt thank you to the Kinetic Light team, to our friends and families who cheered us on, to our funders and supporters, and to you, our audience. We are thrilled to share DESCENT with you.

Researched, Directed and
Conceived by
Alice Sheppard
Choreographer and Performance
Alice Sheppard, in collaboration with Laurel Lawson
Lighting and Video Designer
Michael Maag
Costume and Makeup Designer
Laurel Lawson

Film Production

Michael Maag and Alice Sheppard
Shaina Ghuraya
Camera and Video Engineers
The Empac Video Team
Eric Brucker, Lead Video Engineer with Mick Bellow
and Ryan Jenkins
Audimance Design
Laurel Lawson
Audimance Content Sound Designer/Mixer
Andy Slater
Audio Description in English
Cheryl Green
Location: The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts
Music: Jeanrenaud, Joan. Visual Music. With performers PC Munoz and William Winant. Deconet Records 2016. With the kind permission of the composer. Song of Songs by Karen Tanaka is used by arrangement with G. Schirmer Inc. publisher and copyright owner. Empty Infinity by Cornelius Dufallo. Journaling. Innova Recordings 2012, is used by kind permission of the composer. Waiting, by Joan Jeanrenaud. Strange Toys. Talking House Records 2008. With the kind permission of the composer. Music Editing by Dan Wool. Video design and projection images inspired by selected sculptures of Auguste Rodin and created by Michael Maag. Original images provided by Stanford University’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center For Visual Arts. Additional video courtesy of EMPAC / Eric Brucker and Ryan Jenkins. RAMP Design Team: Sara Hendren, Yevgeniya Zastavker, and Katie Butler, Daniel Daugherty, Duncan Hall, Andrew Holmes, Erica Lee, Scott Mackinlay, Apurva Raman, March Saper, Alexander Scott, Kimberly Winter, Rachel Yang, Jingyi Xu, with support from Olin College. Ramp Engineering and Fabrication: Rooster Productions, LLC a small employee-owned scene shop located in Martinez, CA.
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House Programme

House Programme

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Co-presented by

Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust

Strategic Supporting Partner

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