Light Solos

22, 23, 25/05 – 20:30
24/05 — 22:00

Strobos means “whirlwind” in Ancient Greek. Scope comes from skopeïn which means “to look at”. Light Solos is a sequence of optical pieces written for a female dancer… and an ensemble of the kind of stroboscopic lamps usually found at concerts or in nightclubs. For several years, Ula Sickle and Yann Leguay have been working on a series of electrifying short solos that incorporate light sources as an active agent in the choreographic process. How can perception of a moving body be altered by light? What active role does the spectator’s eye play in a choreography’s construction? Caught in a retinal twirling and cut out by bursts of light, the body starts to look like a projected image. The dance’s space-time joins that of animated film sequences. The amplified light waves also provide the subtle sound score for each solo. A third piece in addition to Atomic 5.1 (2010) and Solo#2 (2011) is being created for the Kunstenfestivaldesarts. Enlightening!

Ula Sickle & Yann Leguay

Choreography & performance
Ula Sickle

Live sound
Yann Leguay

Choreographic assistance
Ana Cristina Velasquez

Raphaël Noël

Kunstenfestivaldesarts, KVS

Caravan Production (Brussels)


Le Fresnoy Studio National des Arts Contemporains (Tourcoing), Teatr Nowy (Warsaw), Les Brigittines (Brussels), Workspacebrussels, Pianofabriek kunstenwerkplaats (Brussels)

Supported by
Vlaamse Gemeenschapscommissie van het Brussels Hoofstedelijk Gewest, Canada Council for the Arts

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A flash of the bigger picture: on Light Solos by Ula Sickle and Yann Leguay


Call it metaphysical, or call it hyper concrete, with their Light Solos, choreographer Ula Sickle and sound artist Yann Leguay stage not only a new choreography, but at the same time the technique that lies at its basis. In a triptych of short studies, both makers examine how light can affect our perception of body and space. And that influence is surprisingly big. On the one hand, wonderful images are created in different configurations that border on the impossible: in short flashes of light a stationary body is brought to life, you see a dancer from different sides at the same time, or a shadow game turns into an abstract animation film. But however intoxicating the body is in this fusion of dance and light show, the actual leading role is reserved for the theatre machine itself. As a metaphor for the process that underlies all reality.


This interest in the machinery of perception has already been present for quite a while in the work of both makers. She previously worked with pre-cinema techniques and developed Viewmaster, a poetic installation-performance that is able to project live analogue images as living holograms. He makes performances in which concrete noise evokes a sound world that always thematizes the underlying technicality. Think of a vinyl record without grooves being scratched live, or tapes and CDs that reproduce the sound of their own recording process. The collaboration on Light Solos combines these fascinations: she focuses on light as the basic condition of looking, but where Viewmaster partly hid its machinery, Light Solos simultaneously activates the entire theatre space. Whether the setup includes strobes, a mobile robot spot, or classical theatre lighting, their operation is amplified in real time becoming a soundscape that immerses you in an intoxicating universe, but at the same time emphasizes its own artificiality.


Take Solo #1 (Atomic 5.1). With five strobes placed at different angles, a unique physics is immediately created. Not only is the illusion of movement evoked, but the subtle optical dislocation of the body also makes the whole room vibrate. At times the flashes follow each other so quickly that the performer seems to be present in different places at once, like in a tangible multiverse, without actually moving. A whirlwind of sound that emerges directly from the strobes further propels the intensity. And that is the paradox that energizes Light Solos: however overwhelming the imagery becomes, the more the machinery itself comes to the fore. And precisely due to this overt arrangement, the effect obtained is all the more surprising. In Light Solos, the thrill of the image and the reflection about its preconditions go hand in hand. And you realize that light itself is as much a neutral conductor of information as a video camera or a microscope. Even the most direct experience is mediated.


Whereas Atomic examines the rhythm and positioning of light, Solo #2 in particular experiments with shifts in colouration and texture. With only one light source, albeit a high-tech robotic disco lamp, a simple movement pattern is always placed in a different light. Colour- and texture-filters very gradually affect our perception of the body, and movement spreads out like an overexposed photo. Here, too, a soundscape of live amplified robotics from within the lamp makes you aware of the impact of electronics. Even more than in Solo #1 you feel the driving force of your own senses. In the gradation shifts from blue cyan tones to greyscale, your eyes lose all point of reference. And the same colouration changes happen purely through your accustomed gaze. It is as if the operation of the lamp and that of your sight are literally aligned with each other, and you are confronted with the physical fact that every imagining of reality not only depends on a medium, but is also influenced by our own perception device.


The complexity of this interaction is driven to extremes in Solo #3. The situation evoked is one made up of decidedly different layers that are not only representations of each other, but also mutually influence each other. Solo #3, with its simple arrangement of theatre spotlights, has the most low-tech feel to it. It begins with a subtle play of light that presents an almost invisible body alternately as a homogeneous mass or as a gaping black void. A silhouette taking shape is duplicated in a fascinating shadow play that by its succession of stills resembles stop motion animation. But the combination of fade-outs, in which every shadow duly fades away and the crossfading of the light flashes as they follow one another, yields a strange sense of time that simultaneously slows down and speeds up. The longer that shadow game lasts, the more its timing will also retroactively determine the reading of the body. A representation or fiction can radically affect our reading of reality. In Solo #3 they both form part of the same physical interaction, and together result in a touching scenic image.


That's what the Light Solos make tangible through their double gaze: that reality is not a specific given, but the product of a sultry exchange. Between audience and medium, but also between image elements themselves. Light, sound, dancer, and audience; all in Light Solos are performers in their own right. And by making the different factors - and especially the play between them - so perfectly tangible, the performance highlights not only its effects but also their constructedness. In Light Solos the body is here and there, material and virtual, static and dynamic at the same time, and the essence of the image affects the audience's interpretation. Sickle and Leguay place the concept of passive observation on a slope, without falling into a one-sided relativism. And it is in that extremely concrete, physical way that Light Solos starts to speak about reality. From a performance-installation that is only concerned about itself, a world of experience is opened that probes the essence of our reality: How do we perceive the real? Of which larger process am I part? And how much of a role can I play in it?


As a spectator of Light Solos you are part of a universe in which everything seems to be connected with everything else. And yet you wonder who exactly determines what. The body that we get to see is one that adapts - but is also fully subjected to - the technology that surrounds it. But, more importantly, this relationship does not appear immutable. Throughout the various solos you see the dancer develop from a dependent plaything to a performer who by accepting and exploring his conditions also learns to master them. As the audience, you are in a similar position. Light Solos not only increases our awareness of the constraints of our reality, but at the same time opens up the possibility to conceive of a different way of being in the world. Based on the conviction that a truly new reality can only be created from a broader and more nuanced view, it presents another consciousness of the real. Trickling away, paradoxical, but with a decisive role for the spectator. And that flash, perhaps, is the beginning of something.

Marnix Rummens, April 2013
Translated by Jodie Hruby

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Ula Sickle (b. 1978, Toronto) is a choreographer and performer, living and working in Brussels. She works across disciplines, and often in collaboration with artists from other domains. While her work takes many forms, from film to installation to live performance, it is informed by a choreographic approach to movement and a work on perception and reception, specific to the live arts. Ula studied art history at the University of Toronto and performance at the University of Paris VIII Seine-Saint-Denis, before attending P.A.R.T.S. Performing Arts Research and Training Studios in Brussels. She has been working as an independent choreographer since 2004. Her collaborative works include Knockout (2005) with filmmaker Alexis Destoop and sound artist Peter Lenaerts, and the installation and performance Viewmaster (2007-2010) with architect Laurent Liefooghe and performance maker Heike Langsdorf. Solid Gold(2010) and Jolie (2011) were created in collaboration with Congolese dancers Dinozord and Jolie Ngemi, as well as with sound artist Yann Leguay. In the frame of her residence at Le Fresnoy, Studio National des Arts Contemporains (Tourcoing) she created the video installation Looping the Loop (2009) and the performance and film Atomic 5.1 (2010). Her latest production Extreme Tension (2012), a solo for Marie De Corte, is based on the drawing series of the same name by Louise Bourgeois.

Yann Leguay (b. 1981, France) lives and works in Brussels. In his work involving the materiality of sound, Yann Leguay seeks to turn reality in on itself using basic means in the form of objects and videos or during installations and performances he gives at several concert venues, exhibitions and festivals in Europe (including Le Nouveau Festival at the Pompidou Centre, STEIM in Amsterdam and Pixelache in Helsinki. Taking this same approach to sound, he is involved in choreographic research and produces noise compositions and music for artists’ films. He is also the man behind the independent label Phonotopy which offers a conceptual approach to recording media, and currently runs the DRIFT collection within the Artkillart label. He met Ula Sickle during their residence at Le Fresnoy, the National Studio for Contemporary Arts, in Tourcoing in 2008. They have since collaborated on several projects, namely Looping the Loop (video installation, 2009), Atomic 5.1 (film, 2010), Solid Gold (performance, 2010), Jolie (performance, 2011), Extreme Tension (performance, 2012) and Light Solos(performance, 2011-2013).

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