Before We Flew Like Birds, We Flew Like Clouds is an audience activated installation illuminating the experiences of four humans with extraordinary relationships to their bodies – an astronaut, a professional athlete, a survivor of a near death experience and a differently abled person – using Virtual Reality films, prerecorded and live music staged inside a floating, immersive set of star-like objects.
The narrative centers on the question, “what is it like to be in your body?” Each contributor’s personal stories will be integrated in the installation through audio interviews sampled and used in score.
The film component consists of four Virtual Reality short films created in partnership with these contributor’s – each as the subject matter of their own film.
The music and films will be experienced in an interactive, planetarium-like environment. Viewers sit in swivel chairs throughout the space amidst floating, star-like sculptures hovering in the space, created by enclosing helium balloons in an architectural triangular framework made from Styrene tubing. Live dance, vocals and strings add the performative element to the work.
This project is commissioned by Velocity Dance Center’s Made In Seattle Program. After it’s Seattle premiere this project will go on to IMAGINE Film Festival co-produced by Earth Dance and Dance Films Association in Massachusetts.
Alia Swersky, Dancer
Alia Swersky has been a Seattle-based movement artist since 1998. She is best known as an improviser, performer, ritual creator, mentor, teacher and healer. Alia is on faculty at Cornish College of the Arts where she has been teaching creative process, choreography and improvisation since 2005.
Liane Aung, Dancer
Born and raised in Southern California, Liane received her B.F.A in Dance at the University of California, Irvine with emphasis in performance. At UCI, she became a member of Donald McKayle’s Etude Ensemble and performed legendary creations such as Rainbow ‘Round my Shoulder, Songs of the Disinherited, Angelitos Negros & many more. To further enrich her training, Liane attended summer intensives with Alvin Ailey and the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance. Liane continued on to work professionally with contemporary modern dance company, Backhausdance under the Artistic Direction of Jenny Backhaus for 5 seasons, while simultaneously a member of Entity Contemporary Dance Company under the direction of Will Johnston and Marissa Osato for 4 seasons. Soon after Liane then relocated to NYC, where she worked as a freelance dancer with Yin Yue Dance Company and Erica Essner Performance Co-op. Through her experiences Liane has performed Nationally and Internationally including; The Schrit_tmacher Festival in Germany, Jacob’s Pillow Inside/Out Festival, Venues in British Columbia, and has worked closely with artists such as Penny Saunders, Larry Keigwin, Joseph Hernandez, Glenn Edgerton, Yin Yue, Summer Lee Rhatigan, Alex Ketley, Jodie Gates, Mike Esperanza, Carlos Jones and Gerri Houlighan. After receiving an offer with Seattle’s WhimW’him Contemporary Dance Company, Liane relocated to Seattle and is in her first season with WhimW’him. As a newcomer to Seattle, she is thrilled to be working with KT Neihoff on her newest production Flew Like Clouds.
Thomas House, Dancer
Thomas House was born and raised in Virginia Beach, VA where he trained in dance primarily with Denise Wall. He began his formal training at Purchase College, SUNY where he graduated in 2014. While in school he performed works by Lar Lubovitch, Merce Cunningham, William Forsythe, Doug Varone, Twyla Tharp and had the opportunity to study dance abroad for 4 months in Taipei, Taiwan. Thomas recently moved to Seattle from Brooklyn where he worked as a freelance dance artist. His most recent performances include an 8 city international tour with Abraham in Motion, shows with Aszure Barton & Artists at the NY City Center “Fall for Dance” festival and with Kate Wallich + The YC at Jacob’s Pillow. Thomas has also worked and performed with Loni Landon Dance Project, LoudHoundMovement, TOES for Dance and Zoe|Juniper. In 2014 and again in 2015, he presented his own work “to see. [arena] reaction to you” in NYC. He is thrilled to be performing with KT Niehoff.
Wade Madsen, Dancer
Wade Madsen was born and raised in Albuquerque New Mexico Wade has been in Seattle teaching, performing, and choreographing since 1977. He has toured nationally with the Bill Evans Dance Company and with Tandy Beal & Company. He has toured performed Dayna Hansen and was featured in three world premiers, and appeared in her film ‘The Improvement Club’. Wade is currently a professor of dance at Cornish College of the Arts, where he has been on faculty since 1985. Wade also has been teaching in the Seattle area in various studios since 1977, and a continues as a senior faculty member at Velocity Dance Center. Wade as a choreographer has over 190 works to his credit.This spring Wade will premier two dances, one for Cornish College of the Arts and the second, titled ‘People’ will be in the Northwest New Works festival at On the Boards. Madsen will also have a work presented in Full tilt, Evoke productions. In the fall of 2017 Wade will be performing in a world premier by Peggy Piacenza at Base.
Amiya Brown, Lighting Design
Amiya Brown is a Lighting Designer and Visual Artist based in Seattle, WA. She holds a Masters Degree in Theatrical Lighting Design from the University of Washington. Designing nationally and internationally for Theatre, Dance, and Opera, she specializes in generative performance works. Her work has been presented at The Baryshnikov Performing Arts Center (NYC), The Jocye SOHO (NYC), On the Boards (Seattle, WA), The Moore (Seattle, WA), REDCAT (Los Angeles, CA), The Guthrie Theatre (Minneapolis, MN), The Della Nuova Danza Roma (Rome, Italy), and Theatre Le Quai (Angers, France) and many others. She received a Gypsy Rose Lee Award in 2012 for her work on The Skriker (Janet Findley Productions) and recently designed lights for Pat Graney’s Besse awarding winning production Girl Gods. Long standing collaborators include Pat Graney, Amy O’Neal, zoe|juniper, Alice Gosti, Kyle Loven, Kate Wallich. For information and contact please visit http://www.amiyabrowndesign.com.
Cameron Irwin, Set Design
Cameron Irwin is an Associate at LMN Architects and a member of fabrication and design collective, TCG. Locally, he has created set designs with the Washington Ensemble Theatre, Seattle Art Museum, On the Boards, and Tectonic Marrow Society, among others. His architectural experience includes commercial, multi-family residential, convention center and performing arts projects. He is formerly the Resident Scenic Designer at the Washington Ensemble theater, where he currently serves as a board member.
Dacia Sáenz, Film Director
Dacia Sáenz is a filmmaker and storyteller from Austin, Texas where she worked in documentary productions for CNBC, PBS, and the Sundance Foundation. Since her move to Seattle, Dacia has earned her Masters of Communication in Digital Media from the University of Washington, debuted three short films at the 2012, 2013, and 2016 Seattle International Film Festivals, and taken home the Audience Choice Award at the Seattle Center’s Next Fifty film festival. She has also collaborated on international documentary projects on behalf of the Seattle Globalist and the University of Washington’s Center for Human Rights. Dacia currently spends her days pretending to be a wizard on the After Effects team at Adobe, and exploring the mind-blowing possibilities of immersive storytelling in Virtual Reality. In her free time, she enjoys playing synthesizers and rockin’ the bass in her This American Life tribute band, Ira’s Glasses.
Gretchen Burger, Film Director
Gretchen Burger is an artist, educator, media-maker, and co-founder with Sandy Cioffi of fearless360º, a start-up working at the intersection of art, culture, education, storytelling and technology to develop content, programming, and curriculum for immersive / VR / AR / 360º media. Gretchen has an MFA in Film/Video from the Massachusettes College of Art and Design and has taught video production and editing at the Art Institute of Seattle, Seattle University, Cornish College of the Arts, and the Northwest Fim Forum. A long time activist and documentary filmmaker, Gretchen serves on the board of the Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Network and is a co-founder of the Seattle Documentary Association.
Norma Jean Straw, Film Director
Norma Jean Straw has worked as a writer/producer/director on over 100 episodes of nationally broadcast TV, primarily educational children’s shows. She is a dedicated community builder seeking to create social justice and personal awakenings through her work.
Angie Harrison, Set Designer
Angie Harrison is a scenic designer, painter, sculptor and furniture maker. She has designed sets and environments for New City Theater, University of Washington, Nordstrom, and various TV and film projects. She strives to create spaces that provoke profound emotions.
Sandy Cioffi, Film Director
Sandy Cioffi is a Seattle-based film and video artist. She has produced and/or directed several independent films, including the critically acclaimed Sweet Crude, Crocodile Tears, Terminal 187 and Just Us. Sandy has worked with human rights organizations in global hot zones before, during and after conflict. Currently, Sandy is directing a non-fiction media project with CREA, a feminist human rights organization – having filmed with the participants of the SELF Academy last December. And she was the Director of SIFFX and is the Director of the new media and virtual reality X Fair coming in 2017! She is the co-founder and Creative Director of the start-up fearless360o creating immersive media and education events around the world.
Maurice Hall, Professional In-line Speed Skater
Maurice Hall became a professional speed skater in 2005. Since then he has been traveling the world to skate different races and teach skate clinics. Maurice spends his time, producing music, dancing, exploring the world of fashion design and personal training.
Soyeon Yi, Astronaut
Soyeon Yi was the third woman and first Korean woman to go to space. She flew as a Russian guest on April 8, 2008 completing 18 science experiments in space including taking 1,000 fruit flies in a special air-conditioned container box to monitor the way the changes in gravity and other environmental conditions altered the behavior of the flies. She also studied the effects of space on the human body and growth of plants.
Shevanthi (Shev) Daniel-Rabkin, MBA Co-Director of Worker Cooperative Conversions at the Democracy at Work Institute. A National organization dedicated to building the field of worker cooperative development. She is passionate about the intersection of sustainable business and economic development. Her work spans over two decades in community and labor organizing, and strategic capacity building with nonprofit and small businesses. She is a co-founder of the O’Dell Education Center, a leadership academy in Washington State. Shevanthi also serves as the President of the Board at the Center for Women and Democracy.
KT Niehoff, Director
KT Niehoff is an entrepreneurial generative artist, performer and producer working in the field of immersive performance. Her disciplines include choreography, music, film, space, design and building communities programs. She holds a BFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
In the early 90’s she moved to Seattle, WA to perform with the Pat Graney Company and in 1996 co-founder the Seattle based arts space, Velocity Dance Center, Michele Miller, where she instituted the SCUBA National Touring Dance Alliance. In 2006 she left her post at Velocity to pursue her immersive performance work full time.
As a 20+ year educator, KT has taught at numerous festivals and universities including Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Oberlin College, Cornish College of the Arts, Texas Christian University, The University of Washington, The Hong Kong Academy of the Performing Arts and the SNDO, Amsterdam.
Images by Kelly O