Long before he started dancing, the choreographer Silas Riener preferred reading science fiction novels and dreaming of far-off realms.
“It’s part of a queer identity—the ‘otherness’ of aliens or fantasy,” Riener says, noting his penchant for sci-fi. “It attracted me because of being in the closet, growing up with people who are different or ways that the world is different.”
A former member of Merce Cunningham Dance, Riener is one-third of the creative trio behind Tesseract, a two-part work based on otherworldly themes that will be performed at the MCA this weekend in conjunction with the exhibit “Merce Cunningham: Common Time.” The other two-thirds: Rashaun Mitchell (also a former Cunningham dancer) and video artist Charles Atlas, who began working with the Cunningham company as a stage manager back in the mid-70s. Together, the trio bring a decidedly alien approach to movement.
As Riener describes it, Tesseract is as much space odyssey as it is dance. The title refers to the four-dimensional analog of a cube, which in this case is “moving from one world to another,” he says. The first half of the show features 3-D footage captured by Atlas using a mobile camera rig that moves in conjunction with the choreography, incorporating bits of animation. The second half is much more conventional from a dance perspective—a cast of six move in a proscenium setting—but here again there’s a second component, as Atlas will mix and project real-time live video onto the stage.
“We’re using dance as a language, but we’re also using things that are very familiar to people, like the projected image, the camera person, seeing something from multiple angles at the same time,” Riener says. “And we’re not trying to tell a story, we’re just putting you inside this world where things happen and letting you think and feel whatever you want.”
Tesseract Thu 3/23-Sat 3/25, 7:30 PM, Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago, 312-280-2660, mcachicago.org, $30, $10 students.