Jason Akira Somma

Lyon Opera

April 2010 - Jason Akira Somma, 2008-2009 Dance Protégé

Jason Akira Somma has been selected to create a work for the renowned contemporary dance company, Lyon Opera Ballet. Known for their abilities to embody contemporary dance, the impressive, classically trained dancers of Europe’s most travelled dance company will perform Somma’s work in June of this year.

In Lyon Opera Ballet’s final performance of the season, usually reserved for the year’s most audacious work, Somma marshals all his video artistry to create a striking performance (as yet untitled). The new work will be performed 8 to 12 June 2010.

In this video: Jason’s work in progress, commissioned by Yorgos Loukos and performed by the Lyon Opera Ballet. Music by Chris Lancaster, video design and live mixing by Jason Akira Somma.

“The piece is an exploration of surveillance and documentation,” Somma explains. I'm working with infrared/night vision cameras, and the first half of the piece happens in complete darkness. The audience can hear the dancers, but they won't be able see them. They will only be able to see what I choose to project and manipulate. The idea stemmed from my curiosity about all the surveillance that is taking place these days — there isn't a single street you can walk on in New York without being recorded or documented by some camera. I want to look at how we are perceived when we are unaware of being seen. This is just one aspect of the work.”

This prestigious invitation confirms Somma’s growing importance in world of dance. The Lyon Opera Ballet has performed works by leading choreographers, including Rolex mentors William Forsythe, Jirí Kylián and Trisha Brown. Somma says it is a significant opportunity for him.

“I am rarely given the opportunity to combine my various backgrounds as a visual artist and a choreographer; for the most part they have been kept separate or I am only asked to collaborate in one aspect, usually with video and new technology.

“This is a great time to utilizse what I learned from my mentoring year as a choreographer. It is also a unique opportunity to create work in such a supportive environment. I was informed that in the city of Lyon alone, the French Ministry of culture gives more money to the arts than all of the United States. It was a real eye-opening experience, however, my background as an artist in the United States has its advantages, as well. Working with virtually no funding in the past, I'm good at being resourceful.

“Also, working with dancers of this calibre has been great. Their talent allows me to push my choreographic skills to new levels. This piece has already garnered a lot of interest from various parties due to the prestige of the venue and the way I am entwining my backgrounds.”

Somma’s new work will appear along side the work of two choreographers who were protégé candidates for the 2008/2009 Rolex Arts Initiative cycle, Otto Ramstad and Antony Hamilton, 8 to 12 June 2010. For more information about the show, visit the Lyon Opera website.

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