Detroit Performs

S10 E4 | CLIP

U of M Professor Emeritus of Dance Peter Sparling

University of Michigan's Peter Sparling joins WRCJ's Peter Whorf to talk about his latest creations and to find out what he has been up to during this COVID-19 situation.

AIRED: June 01, 2020 | 0:04:32

(bright piano music)

- [Peter Whorf] Peter Sparling is distinguished

Professor Emeritus of Dance at the University of Michigan,

and he was principal dancer

with the Martha Graham Dance Company.

(quirky music)

"Man in the Moon" is a video that I watched of yours,

which also suggests this idea

that we're experienced now about kind of being alone

or being somewhere, isolated, away from people.

Can you tell our viewers about "Man in the Moon,"

what we're seeing there?

- Many of my works come about

because I want to experiment or explore

certain aspects of video technology.

In this case, I knew that green screen

chroma key technology would allow me to create

all sorts of illusions on the screen.

So at the Duderstadt Video Studio

at the University of Michigan,

I asked Jacques and Jeff, the technicians,

to train a hot spotlight down on a green floor,

thinking that I could then insert a film

of an eclipse over that area of the green,

and give the illusion that I was actually treading

the surface of a planet during an eclipse.

And I was very fortunate in that I went online

and I found beautiful footage by a fellow,

William Castleman, who had actually

filmed an eclipse in high resolution.

So the piece came together quickly.

I was fortunate to have

permission from a colleague

in the composition program at U of M, Erik Santos,

to use a score that he had written, a percussion score,

and it fit together wonderfully.

(eerie music)

I see a man, almost, kind of like

a grown-up, lost Little Prince,

who's cast away on some island in the cosmos.

It's a time warp!

Not only is there an eclipse going on,

but he's kind of going in and out of memories,

of different psychological states.

So in most of my works, I try to leave it open enough

so that the viewer can interpret as he or she wishes,

but to make it evocative enough and dynamic enough

so that it keeps the viewer riveted.

(suspenseful music)

(playful music)

This obsession with video really came about

through my teaching at the university,

and that 20-odd years ago, a colleague and I decided

that we needed to offer students the ability

to make work on video, to make art on video,

because we knew that video was gonna become

more and more important, and it was gonna proliferate media.

Something about this pandemic that has just

been staring me right in the face

is this fact that video and media,

social media, have become so important.

Every arts organization now

is bridging this pandemic and finding

modes of communication online!

How does one concertize online?

What happens to a group of musicians

who are all playing together on Zoom?

How can dancers interact on Zoom?

I mean, these are questions I've been asking for years,

but suddenly, it seems so important.

And we don't know how long this pandemic's gonna last.

I'm on an advisory committee

for the University Musical Society,

and we spent most of our last meeting talking

about the use of media,

of online programming.

So, long story short, I'm finding that

all of my work in video is suddenly becoming

extremely relevant to a lot of people.

(drums booming)


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