At Wood Street Galleries, a site-specific dance work incorporates movement sensors that generate sounds. | Dance | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

At Wood Street Galleries, a site-specific dance work incorporates movement sensors that generate sounds.

One advantage of doing smaller, site-specific dance works is that when inspiration strikes or opportunity knocks, the time elapsed until an actual performance is like turning on a dime compared to booking a theater space, and all the logistics that go with it.

Such was the case in October, when Wood Street Galleries curator Murray Horne approached Mary Miller at her MillerDANCE office, located in the same Downtown building. He invited her to create a dance work in conjunction with Wood Street's Audio Space exhibit of Toronto-based installation artist David Rokeby's sound sculpture "Dark Matter."

Two weeks later, Miller and her company (a.k.a. The Mary Miller Dance Company) were presenting "Landscape," the first of three resulting 14-minute dance works, as part of their Let's Do Friday Lunch performance series at the gallery. 

"Landscape," "Pools of Sound and Silence" and "Water" are all built around a series of fixed movement sensors that make up Rokeby's invisible sculpture.

In a mostly darkened gallery space lit sparingly by black light, infrared cameras create three-dimensional zones that correspond to banks of manmade and natural sounds which are activated only when the sensors in that zone are crossed, creating sound from the otherwise silent exhibit. Four dancers (including Miller) manipulate these sounds along with the use of silence so that, says Miller, "the sound reflects the movement rather than the movement reflecting the sound."

The result is three unique and somewhat surprising dance experiences. 

"It is really enjoyable for artists to work with other artists," says Miller. "I think without losing the integrity of either art form, it creates a third entity which is kind of fun."  

Remaining performances in the lunchtime series are "Pools of Sound and Silence" (on Fri., Dec. 10) and "Water" (Dec. 17). On Dec. 10, MillerDANCE will also present a special evening performance in which all three works are performed in succession. 

These performances are part of a continuing return for Miller and her 26-year-old company to its roots of alternative venues and site-specific work. 

"When the company began, I was very interested in site-specific work. For a time, though, that shifted because some of my works cried out to be performed on proscenium stage," says Miller. "I wanted to get back to site-specific work because I like taking the distance between performer and audience] out and making work that is right up front and personal with the audience." 


MillerDANCE performs "Landscape," "Pools of Sound and Silence" and "Water" 7:30 p.m. Fri., Dec. 10. 

Let's Do Friday Lunch presents MillerDANCE performing "Pools of Sound and Silence" (Dec. 10) and "Water" (Dec. 17); performances at 12:05 and 12:40 p.m. 

Wood Street Galleries, 601 Wood St., Downtown. Free. 412-471-5605 or

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