For two decades Musiqa and NobleMotion Dance have been breaking artistic boundaries in Houston and winning national acclaim for their adventurous programming. At the same time, Jose Luis Contreras-Vidal, director of the BRAIN Center at University of Houston and professor of electrical and computer engineering, has been pioneering nonsurgical brain-machine interfaces to understand the brain in action in clinical, artistic and classroom settings. This January, for the first time, the groups converge to present the world premiere of LiveWire, an innovative collaboration between scientists, musicians and dancers who will wear EEG skull caps (brain caps), while performing a new work centered around a new string quartet by artistic director Anthony Brandt, set to choreography by Andy and Dionne Noble. The performance also includes the Houston premieres of Pierre Jalbert’s Piano Quintet and Carlos Simon’s Loops for String Trio, as well as NobleMotion’s premiere of The Spider’s Den set to Lei Liang’s Gobi Gloria. NobleMotion’s dynamic Rhythm Study and artwork by Houston-based visual artist Emily Fens round out the program.
Until recently in human history, the arts provided perhaps the only way to get inside another person’s thoughts, whether that be through a Shakespearean monologue, a piano concerto, or a haiku. But technological breakthroughs are now giving us our first scientific insights into the human mind. LiveWire brings science into an internal landscape that previously has been the purview of the arts. Two years in the making, the evening’s titular work is a two-phase collaboration that begins in Houston and then goes on tour to Wolf Trap in April as part of an international Brain and Dance conference. LiveWire explores the latest neuroscience discoveries with each of its five movements showcasing a different process of the human brain. The choreography and projection design respond to the music and are abstract visual representations of the brain’s plasticity. Soloist Evelyn Toh, wearing a brain cap, guides the audience through the inner-landscape of her mind. Additional dancers reveal her brain’s activity as they glide and carve out new pathways, much like neurons alive inside our heads. Contreras-Vidal’s team will deploy mobile brain-body imaging technology to listen, map and record the dancer’s brain activity as part of his project, ‘Your Brain on Dance,’ which furthers research into how the mind initiates spontaneous and prepared movement and internalizes artistic experiences. Audience members will watch this experiment take place in real time. EEG recordings of the dancers will be used as part of University of Houston research.
LiveWire will be performed again this spring at the 2022 International Workshop on the Neural and Social Bases of Creative Movement at Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts in Virginia. Our January performance provides Houston audiences with the chance to see this exciting new work before it reaches an international audience.