Last week we had the "AboutNOWish" team come in to perform their interactive sound and movement piece "Underfoot" at Threeways. They took over the Sensory Studio for three days and worked with several students and I can not praise their work highly enough. Not only were the students inspired and very obviously joyfully engaged, but the staff too. Since the departure of the team the school has been buzzing with people collaborating to build on that creative energy and replicate some of the fantastic work that went on.
The piece made use of 3 large pieces of layered textural matting (grass, pink squashy matts and blue fluff), 3 dancers, a musician/technician, some underfloor bespoke pressure sensors and custom built software (made in Supercollider). Each texture had its own sound/music and movements and between each the flooring was rolled back to reveal the next layer. The dancers used intensive interaction techniques with plenty of individual attention and eye/body contact to encourage the students to join in with the movements, no talking was used. The students responded magnificently, even some with quite challenging behaviour, and were obviously very engaged. The musician/technician supported with large whistle and saxophone accompanied by a subtle electronic soundtrack managed by the software and a discrete controller. Some electronic sounds triggered by the sensors provided a nice random element to the sound too. The instrument playing also became part of the performance as the musician moved onto the mat and interacted with students and did a very good job of playing with a child's arm down the front of the saxophone on several occasions. This type of use of resonant surfaces for tactile sensations often has a great effect on several of our students.
The technology employed was inspired in its subtlety, effectiveness and flexibility. Although the sensors provided a great element to the piece, the students were mostly unaware of their existence. The electronic music was subtle and provided a great backing, mood and depth for the live playing that was going on and I felt that had the technology crashed then the piece could have still carried on without major issue. The team seemed well practiced in getting in and out of installations and the kit seems robust and quick to set up. For its use at Threeways in the Studio we decided to patch it into the lighting so that the pressure sensors could also control spots of light over the sensors which was nice to explore.
The team were a lovely bunch of people and very sensitive to the needs of the school, I would highly recommend this performance and indeed we hope to find another opportunity to work with them again. We have received many testimonials from staff and parents as to the effectiveness of the sessions.