Rob Voisey:
60x60 Dance

World Financial Center, NYC
Suzanne Thorpe

What can you do in 60 seconds? On November 14, 2008, at the World Financial Center’s Winter Garden, in New York City, 60 composers paired with 60 choreographers for an exciting multimedia presentation of exactly what they could do in 60 seconds. Formatted after the already existing 60x60 concert series, 60x60 Dance features each dance and musical pair performing a piece for 60 seconds, one after another, for 60 minutes. The idea, dubbed "mad" by Roslyn Sulcas of the New York Times, is a bold initiative by composer Rob Voisey, producer of the 60x60 projects, and choreographer Jeramy Zimmerman. Recently, AE caught up with Voisey to ask a few questions about the latest iteration of the 60x60 presentations.

AE: What is 60x60 Dance?

RV: 60x60 Dance is a collaborative effort between the 60x60 project and Jeramy Zimmerman of CatScratch Theatre. 60x60 contains 60 works from 60 different artists. Each work is 60 seconds (or less) in duration, sequenced together to create a one-hour performance. Every year since 2003, the project has put out a call for 60-second electronic music works to select for 60x60.

Each season begins with an audio concert where the music is played in synchronization with an analog clock. Afterwards, we find a collaborator from another art discipline to find a way to create a multimedia event for a second performance season. 60x60 has collaborated with video, photography and sculpture in the past. Now we are collaborating with choreographers and dancers, creating 60x60 Dance.

AE: How did the idea come about?

RV: 60x60 came about in an effort to promote contemporary music, electroacoustic/acousmatic music in particular. The mission of Vox Novus has been to inspire and and promote contemporary composers and their work. In 2003, I wanted to find a way to promote a large number of composers quickly and efficiently in a format that would be understood by all audiences. 60x60 was my solution. 60x60 Dance came about when I met Jeramy Zimmerman at an event. As Zimmerman recalls, "a couple of months back, I met Rob Voisey, a composer who founded Vox Novus, a group dedicated to new music. He mentioned a festival called 60x60, for which 60 composers each create a new piece of music that is 60 seconds long. He said that he would like to collaborate with a dancer. I, of course, replied, a dancer? Why not 60?" And 60x60 Dance was born.

A 60x60 Dance moment

AE: How do you pick the music and the dancers?

RV: There is a call for 60-second recorded works placed each year. These works are collected and prepared for a group of selection panels. The project has received more than 3,000 submissions in the past six years. In 2008 alone we received 1,000 submissions. The panel narrows the selection to approximately 100 works of which I select the final 60 to create a one hour "macro-composition" which puts the aesthetics of the 60x60 project into an artistic flow. 60x60 strives for diversity of styles and aesthetics being a representative slice of what is happening in the world of new music.

For the dancers, a call is placed for participation from choreographers and performance artists. Statements of their aesthetic and willingness to participate are collected. Jeramy Zimmerman has an egalitarian ideology. Participation is selected on their willingness, and on a first come first serve basis. She uses an aesthetic not unlike Merce Cunningham and John Cage with chance operations and the I-ching. Instead of her aesthetic influencing the "macro-choreography", her selection is based on the "chance" of the choreographer wanting to participate. She then hands out each musical selection to the choreographer, much like a dance "assignment". The individual choreographer investigates the space, creates their choreography and dance team, and rehearses their work. In the final rehearsals before the show Jeramy places the dances in order, and tightens the choreography to create a cohesive performance.

AE: Do the pieces feel complete? Do the pieces influence each other?

RV: All the works are complete. Each work is a microcosm of the larger "marco-work". Because there are no pauses between works, each minute influences another. Some works complement each other while others contrast with their differing aesthetics and styles. The 60x60 performance hour is a representation of our community of artists as much as it is a representation of artistic ideas, styles, and aesthetics.

60x60 Dance full cast

AE: How has the event grown from its beginning?

RV: 60x60 Dance had its first performance at Jan Hus Church on August 26th, 2007, which was an overwhelming success despite our lack of resources. In 2008, we continued with two performances at the Galapagos Art Space in DUMBO, Brooklyn, which was another success. At Galapagos, the choreographers and dancers could really explore and experiment within a fantastically unique venue. Recently, there were the two performances at the World Financial Center Winter Garden, which put 60x60 Dance over the top, with thousands of people in attendance and raving reviews.

AE: What can we look forward to for next year?

RV: 60x60 is putting together another call for works for the upcoming year, and will be releasing a fourth recording. 60x60 Dance will be performing in Munich at the A*Devantgarde festival, and Jeramy Zimmerman will be making a homecoming performance in Kansas City at the Electronic Music Midwest festival. Here in New York City, 60x60 Dance has been asked to return to the Winter Garden and Galapagos, which we are very excited about.

Photos by Steven Schreiber