Variations V (1965)
Musicians: John Cage, David Tudor and Gordon Mumma
Choreography: Merce Cunningham
The Merce Cunningham Dance Company
Filmed Projections & Visual Effects: Stan VanDerBeek and Nam June Paik
Lighting: Beverly Emmons
Directed for Film by Arne Arnborn
Variations V reflects the experimentation and spirit of the 1960s — a collaborative, interactive multi-media event with choreographed dance, elaborate mobile decor, variable lighting, multiple film projection, and live-electronic music often activated by the dancers’ movements.
Filmed in 1966 at the NDR television studio in Hamburg, Germany, it is historically important as one of the few available films of a Cunningham Dance Company performance from the 1960s and the first commercial release of Variations V.
As the dancers performed on stage, their movements interacted with twelve antennas built by Robert Moog and a set of photocells designed by Bell Labs research scientist Billy Kluver in such a way as to trigger the transmission of sounds to a 50-channel mixer whose output was heard from six speakers around the hall. The actual sound sources—a battery of tape recorders and radios—were supervised by Cage, David Tudor and Gordon Mumma. The mise-en-scene was supplemented by a film collage by Stan VanDerBeek that included processed television images by Nam June Paik and footage of the dancers shot by VanDerBeek during rehearsals.
***DVD released in 2014 by Mode Records. 157 min $19.99