Last December artist Ryan McNamara brought to Miami Basel his hyper kaleidoscopic show ME3M: A Story Ballet About The Internet. The show is comprised of a multitude of original dance pieces (of various size and formation) happening simultaneously in different areas of a single venue – for this occasion the former Playboy Theatre at the old Castle Beach Resort.
An army of attendants equipped with dollies – which slide forklift-like into and out the house seats – take audience members from one performance to another, at any given point of its duration. The choice of which of the dance pieces one sees, and for how long, is up to the carefully orchestrated pattern of constant chair movement, a ballet all of its own. Performa, which presented the piece in New York in 2013, describes it as “an interpretation of the layered architecture of the internet and the infinite streams of information that pour through its portals onto our laptops and smart phones”.
Ryan allowed Plamen Petkov and I to shoot some of the rehearsals, prep meetings, and pre-show, as well as the actual show. We took some of our favorite moments and crammed them in a three-and-half minutes video ballet of our own.
Here is a brief interview I did with him this week.
Alessandro Magania: When did you first come up with the idea for ME3M? What element was most important to you when you started, and has that shifted since?
Ryan McNamara: I’ve been working with dancers for many years now, but I had never actually choreographed a piece. I saw ME3M as an opportunity to delve in and actually create the movement myself. I was scared at the prospect as my visual art history knowledge is much more developed than my dance history, but I was also excited to bring this visual art background to the form. Creating this movement was definitely the most important element to me. I knew that the unusual structure of the piece would have to be supported by strong choreography.
AM: Watching the rehearsals it seemed like each individual dance was different not just in style but also the way you tackled the work with the dancers. Did you cast it according to styles and choreography you had already devised? To which degree specific dancers informed the choreography?
RM: I am a big dance fan so I have seen the dancers I work with in many other pieces. I have a tendency to gravitate toward a singular dancer in a work. Thankfully these standout dancers usually happen to be my friends, which makes auditions unnecessary. These dancers have a strong sense of self and I need to make sure that the choreography allows that to shine through to the audience.
AM: What performances that you saw live had the strongest effect on you? What about on the web – which performance that you were only able to see on the Internet touched you the most?
RM: Merce Cunningham’s events at Dia Beacon changed the way I see dance. As for performances on the Internet, I am in awe by the vastly variant displays of virtuosity that are uploaded constantly. Huge chunks of my life are taken up by watching people from around the globe performing for the camera.
AM: ME3M at Miami Basel was drastically bigger in scale than its previous incarnations – size of the venue, cast, audience. Were there any elements from presenting it in a smaller scale that you missed on this one? Would you wish for a even bigger version?
RM: I missed the amount of time I got to spend with each individual dancer in New York. On the other hand, I basically brought my own party to Miami, so that made for some good post-performance times.
AM: Does the knowledge of how fleeting web browsing can be, and the fact that so much art is seen nowadays through the internet, influence artists in the way they make work now, in your opinion?
RM: I receive information (be it art, dance, animated gifs, cat videos, etc) much more than I transmit information. I bring my experience as an audience member to my work and am constantly thinking about how the audience will experience something. That’s the constant for me, this ever-changing relationship with audience.