Red Balloon

Red Balloon was a first experiment in video dance improvisation with dancer and choreographer Shouze Ma. We were influenced by watching European videodance, an emerging trend in the late ’90’s of choreographing camera movement into the dance itself. I had explored this in terms of choreographic movement in my undergraduate senior project, and we thought this could be applied effectively through improvisation of both the dancer and videographer.

In the dance studio we found a red balloon floating off to the side of the room with its helium half depleted. We decided to experiment with that and shot this in a single take. I later cut the video into the sequence above.

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Music that is Devilishly Good

Satan’s Bestie is my recent musical recording project, creating devilishly good music. With each cover or original song I try to push things beyond my previous capacity, whether it is crossing musical genres with a remake, rewriting lyrics to develop a narrative in a new direction, or breaking up the rhythmic structure to try something a little different.

The above link takes you to a media player with some sample songs.

Ring Around the Moon is a bluegrass song by one of my favorite bands, Elephant Revival. I contacted them for permission to make a punk/metal remake of their song, Ring Around the Moon, and was granted permission to stream a cover on ReverbNation. The song is written using a pentatonic add 2 scale for solo instruments. In the original that is violin and banjo. Check out the original in this video.

In my remake that is transitioned to electric guitar. I increased the tempo, moved the rhythm guitar chords from open fingering to barre chords up the neck so I could hammer on them in the background. I also wanted to create rock motives to change the feel of the song. The driving, rhythmic motive played by Randy Rhoads at the beginning of Ozzy Ozbourne’s Crazy Train was an inspiration.

I wrote a rhythmic guitar motive that is played on quarter notes and half notes by different instruments at different points in the song. In addition, during the first verse I introduce dissonance by having the lead guitar slide down a step from the root note while the bass remains on the root note. This gives a subtle eerie feeling during lyrics, that in my version, come off as paranoid and disturbed, in contrast to the sweet delivery of the original.

The song “Why Can’t the Devil Have a Best Friend” explores the story of the devil being cast out of heaven to create hell from a different perspective. In this telling God is the playground bully and the devil is the scapegoat, set up for giving complex knowledge to humankind.

“The House of the Setting Sun” explores the classic House of the Rising Sun exploring why the narrator of the story would choose to follow his father’s path into alcoholism and gambling. In this tale, to get by, the boy’s mother takes a lover, but the son can’t handle the complexity of his parent’s situation and becomes self-destructive.

“The Halloween Song” was written and recorded quickly before the holiday was upon us. A cheeky take on spooks, goblins and holiday parties, the song drifts moodily about, like a lost soul.

What would happen if the devil took up singing spirituals? “Dem Bones,” performed with a voice modification to drop the vocal an octave gives us a good idea of the results of such an endeavor.

How would a male country artist sing a Taylor Swift tune? We get a feel for that with “I Knew You Were Trouble,” as a country boy gets played by a city slicker in heels.

Check ’em all out at the link above.

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Breaking Bounds

This piece was a senior independent study project I took on for my BA in dance. I was interested in translating the movement of Kundalini Yoga into modern dance. I had studied Gyrotonic and Gyrokenisis with master teacher Juergen Bamberger in New York. Gyrotonic was influenced by Kundalini, and I wanted to create dances that were more physically beneficial than injurious over time. The reaching and stretching movements come out of the stretching movements from Kundalini and Gyrokenisis, and instead of a stomach contraction, as in Martha Graham technique, the spinal movement is intended as a gentle roll through the spine.

The story is of an initiation ritual of a child during which she has an ecstatic experience that she brings back to the community.

This piece was produced on 1/2 inch tape the year before we were able to digitize and edit video in a computer on any broad scale.
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Blue was a part of the Advanced Choreographic Design course hosted by the University of Iowa dance department. This course was interdisciplinary and brought together graduate students from the dance, music and art departments to create completed works in teams through collaboration. This piece was created by Shouze Ma and myself to a unique score.

The piece is about characters trying to engage with and break through tradition. Shouze produced the majority of the choreography. I assisted in coaching the improvisational portions of the dance. The performance is an initiation ritual that none of the participants particularly enjoy participating in, but at the outset, none can see a way to break free. By the end of the dance they have resolved the conflict and have found a path to self-expression.

I produced the images projected on the back screen by painting them with black ink on white paper and photographing them with negative slide film. Traditional projectors were modified so that the bulb was connected to the lighting box and the fan ran continuously on another circuit. The slide controller was run along side the electrics and controlled by a stagehand from the wings. In this manner we had complete control of the projectors without the risk of overheating and melting or burning the slides.

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Shouze and Alan Live

This video is documentation from a live performance event. Choreographer Shouze Ma and I had been working on the idea that a live improvised dance could be enhanced through interaction with a camera that was simultaneously presented within the performance space. My camera was connected to a projector and I was able to capture and highlight simple gestures that can easily be lost to audience members on a proscenium stage. I was able to also increase the sense of movement by countering Shouze’s movements, sometimes circling him in the opposite direction of his turn, for example.

Audience members observed his dance, my engagement and movement around him, as well as the projection of what my camera was capturing at the time. Shouze danced for the first government approved modern dance company in China where new forms were not only frowned upon, but for many years banned as degenerative forms of expression. These improvisations were expanding the range of the work for both of us, and it was an honor to be exploring these new forms together.

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Reasons for Wearing a White T-Shirt

I produced this video in college just after finishing my bachelors degree in dance. I was interested in reducing movement down to the simplest form – moving from one position to the next, sorting coins in a submissive position on the floor for an impatient pizza delivery man.

In ballet class male dancers wore white T-shirts and black tights, a simple contrast defining the torso and limbs as independent from one another. I took on the white t-shirt as a cause celeb, choosing not to wear anything identifying myself with a group, a brand, a club, but at the same time, I realized I was in a way alienating myself from the culture I was engaged in. I also practiced Soto Zen meditation, another ascetic practice that also reduced aesthetics to a simple, clean form in order to attain a clear mental state.

This video explored the contrasts between chosen asceticism and sensuality. The pool table has all of the balls lined up with the pockets, but the actor is still frozen, unwilling to make a decision in any direction. The character is two feet off the ground with his feet churning in the air, though he at times feels centered and grounded.

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Ah There, Structure

This piece is about creating structure out of chaos and the nature of influence, tradition and human intervention in our environment. The “narrative” I put into the piece includes an urban environment and the sounds of construction along with a deconstructive visual process juxtaposing contemporary architecture with body art. From there I juxtapose images of myself as a child in the 1970’s with contemporaneous images of Hans Breder, Vito Acconci and an image of Anna Mendieta as distorted through glass. I was interested in the idea that some key actors in performance art were producing brand new material at the time I was having some pivotal childhood experiences that would later resolve in studying in the same program where this early work was being produced.

The animated sequences are intended to be reminiscent of constructivist paintings, but being in motion, they are struggling to become resolved in some form of order.

The images of my boots with English riding spurs on them are demonstrative of my push to dive myself to action. There is no horse to spur on. My actions are reminiscent of images from The Red Tapes, an extensive series of images produced by Vito Acconci while resident artist at The University of Iowa in the late 1970’s.

Though not as successful as I would have liked it to be, this was a great piece for me to produce in the year after graduating from my MFA.

View Vito Acconci’s Theme Song below. What a creep.

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