Lucky Plush infuses technology with dance

By CiaraShook

Lucky Plush Productions, a contemporary dance ensemble, is coming to the Dance Center to debut “Punk Yankees,” an one-night show celebrating the company’s decade of performance.

The Dance Center, located at 1306 S. Michigan Ave., is currently working with Lucky Plush to bring an interactive quality to the show, which debuts Oct. 22. The show will have laptops, and directors said they hope live Tweets will be worked into the performance. Led by Artistic Director and Choreographer Julia Rhoads, “Punk Yankees” presents a twist to contemporary dance with the recurring theme of appropriation in both dance and different aspects of pop culture.

Rhoads said the Dance Center is one of the best presenting houses in the nation and Lucky Plush is honored to premiere “Punk Yankees” at Columbia.

“It’s a privilege to work there with the technical crew and [the] staff is top notch,” Rhoads said.

Lucky Plush Productions previously performed at the Dance Center in 2005 and Rhoads said the company had a great experience.

“For our 10th anniversary season, we wanted to be somewhere that had a state-of-the-art facility and an amazing crew and staff,” Rhoads said. “It seemed like the right place.”

Columbia’s Dance Center is nationally recognized for its cutting edge facilities and use of technology.

“[Columbia is] extremely well-respected,” said Anne Fink, spokeswoman for Lucky Plush. “[Lucky Plush’s] contemporary dance is especially something that the Dance Center is known for.”

Rhoads said she and Lucky Plush had the good fortune to work with Kevin Rechner, the technical director, Julie Ballard, the technical assistant of the Dance Center and Jeffery Hancock, an adjunct faculty member who designed the costumes for “Punk Yankees.”

Rechner said because of the technologically interactive nature of “Punk Yankees,” a temporary Internet access port will be installed in the Dance Center for the dancers to bring eight laptops onto the stage.

“We’re hopefully doing live Tweets from the stage and asking the audience to Tweet during intermission so that we can see people’s responses and add a live, interactive element to the performance,” Rechner said. “What I’m calling the ‘Tweet sheet’ will be projected somewhere over the stage.  It will happen primarily at the beginning of the performance, but at intermission they’ll be able to see it.”

The intention of “Punk Yankees” is to acknowledge the digital age because the Internet is becoming a more important part of daily life. They are appropriating these ideas into their show by utilizing popular technologies that challenge current norms of dance culture.

“YouTube specifically has the response video and it encourages people to create derivative works,” Rhoads said. “A lot of that is offering a very stimulating environment for people to create new work, but also people aren’t necessarily aware of intellectual property issues when they do this.”

Rhoads had been interested in sampling for awhile, taking cues from various artists such as musician Gregg Gillis of Girl Talk.

“[As a choreographer, putting] your stuff out there is a great mechanism for people worldwide to see what you do,” Rhoads said.“But at the same time, it’s out there for anyone to do what they want.”

Rechner said Lucky Plush Productions will bring a unique and experimental element of dance to students.

“A lot of dance is thought-based and a lot of the stuff we do here is experimental, but Lucky Plush has a different bend on it,” Rechner said. “It’s driven by Julia’s artistic vision and what she wants to explore.”

Lucky Plush Productions will perform “Punk Yankees” on Oct. 22 – 23, 29 – 31 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. at the Dance Center, 1306 S. Michigan Ave.