Discotrope: The Secret Nightlife of Solar Cells (2012)


Discotrope is an audiovisual performance by Amy Alexander and Annina Rüst. Performances invoke both alternative energy and the curious history of dance in cinema – from backlots to backyards.

(Video is also available on YouTube. A 1080p version is available there.)

At Discotrope events, we’ll project moving images of dancers – both attendees and recorded clips –  onto the Discotrope ball. The video dancers power the ball, literally and figuratively: the ball uses solar cells as disco ball mirrors. So the projected dance videos not only reflect off the ball, they also “solar”-power the motor that makes it rotate – which creates zoetrope-like projections on the surrounding walls, floors, surfaces, and people. We’ll perform the ball live, adding color and light effects to the video projections that vary the amount of light to the solar cells. That changes the speed of the ball’s motor, which allows us to somewhat “choreograph” the movement of the projected visuals as they move around the space.

The recorded videos are assembled from the history of people dancing “at” movie cameras. From Edison’s “Anna Belle Serpentine Dance,” continuing through 1940′s tap dancers, belly dancers, strip tease artists and more, people have gazed into cameras and danced for a very long time. Today’s self-directed YouTube performers do full-frontal camera dancing their own way –  challenging yet sometimes echoing Hollywood’s ideas about dance – and especially about dancers.

Composer Cristyn Magnus has created Discotrope’s custom sound design, which generates the sound live from clips and snippets of the videos. So each Discotrope performance is different sonically as well as visually.

Some stills from our  Flickr Photoset: