Jason Akira Somma, Uncharted territory

Jason Akira Somma

Uncharted territory

August 2011 - Jason Akira Somma, 2008-2009 Dance Protégé

Multimedia artist and protégé in 2008-2009 to choreographer Jiří Kylián, Jason Akira Somma believes that “it is my generation’s responsibility to find new ways of garnering interest in dance and acquiring funding for it. The old model of preserving and funding dance is dying. We need to find new audiences, lower the ticket prices and give choreographers new opportunities and new ways in which to create. Otherwise, there is no future.”

True to his word, Somma continues to produce innovative creations that cross disciplines and defy categorization. In March 2011, his work “Frances Wessels: A Portrait of 92 Years” was performed in the Théâtre National de Chaillot in Paris. In this piece, renowned dancer Frances Wessels, now aged 92, collaborated with Somma and musician Chris Lancaster. In parallel with this performance, Somma had an exhibition – “Phosphene Variations” – in the theatre foyer. This interactive holographic installation featured a free-floating human subject that reacts when touched by viewers, allowing them to have an active role in shaping the choreography and direction of the piece. The installation was created with support from the Rolex Arts Initiative.

Frances Wessels performs in one of Jason Akira Somma’s portraits

Frances Wessels performs in one of Jason Akira Somma’s portraits

Also in March 2011, back in his home city, New York, more of his work was showcased at the Guggenheim Museum in a world premiere of a collaborative piece, featuring five young directors and choreographers, curated by former Rolex mentor Robert Wilson. Somma contributed four short films that he choreographed, directed and edited at the Watermill Center.

Alison Clancy performing Studies in Feedback.  
Photo courtesy of Mat Szwajkos

Alison Clancy performing Studies in Feedback. 
Photo courtesy of Mat Szwajkos

In another development, Somma is finding a creative use for “feedback” in video. Feedback is usually considered a nuisance and is to be avoided. Somma, however, has invented a video set-up that makes use of video feedback to create a new experience of dance performance.

A still image of Alison Clancy captured during a performance of Studies in Feedback.  
Photo courtesy of Jason Akira Somma

A still image of Alison Clancy captured during a performance of Studies in Feedback. 
Photo courtesy of Jason Akira Somma

“I’m making the video signal itself become the dancer, trying to bridge the gap between dance and visual arts,” he says.

Somma has retained the strong links established with his mentor two years ago. In February 2011, to celebrate the opening of the new, high-tech Korzo Theatre in The Hague, he collaborated with Kylián on Anonymous, a work dealing with the two worlds within us: “The world we show and the world we hide”. Somma composed the music, contributed the video component, designed the lights and added choreography.

Creating Anonymous took only a few days. “It was a nice step for Jiří and me,” Somma says. “I was a much bigger collaborator than I have been in the past with him. It was intense, but a lot of fun and very rewarding.”

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