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.
(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.
"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.
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.
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.