With Swipe, Synaethesis Dance Theatre set out to examine “how social media — and a growing attachment to our cellular devices — impacts our lives and the world around us,” according to the note in the show’s program.
The troupe explores our relationship with devices and software 17 contemplative, descriptive, and thought-provoking pieces (some are very short; the whole show is one seamless hour). Among the phenomena that fall under Synaethesis’s scrutiny are selfies, texting, internet dating, cyberstalking, comments sections, and video calls.
Overall, the statements about technology are refreshingly judgment-free, focusing more on how we live with technology. To convey different ideas, responses, and uses of technology in our lives, director and chief choreographer Leah Paterson (associate choreographer Brett Bowser created or co-created a few pieces) incorporates different styles of dance. The music selection is also diverse, including snippets by electroacoustic artist AGF, audioclips of YouTuber Dr. T explaining ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response), and throwbacks to classics by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Queen. (They also use a bit of Laurie Anderson’s 1981 single “O Superman”, which would have earned the production an automatic two stars were I in the business of giving marks).
The seven-person cast (Bonnie Douglas, Michelle Bibeau, Mpoe Mogale, Lauren Hall, Camille Ensminger, Samanga Kuzio, and Paterson herself) is uniformly strong. Each dancer is given at least one big spotlight moment, and they all work together well, whether as a full ensemble, or in duos and trios.
Production designer Trent Crosby created a minimalist set with some spectacular lighting and a smoke machine creating a moody atmosphere.
If Swipe looked like a rock concert sometimes, it also felt like one. For a show about technology that’s been criticized for being cold and distancing, the audience really got into it, cheering, applauding, and shouting out their support. Physically sharing space with performers and fellow audience members is an irreplaceable experience.
That live energy can’t be replicated. But you can get onto social media to tell all your friends to see it (there performances on the last Thursday and the last Saturday of the Fringe), and you can hope that someone has recorded the performance for prosperity (the troupe did, in fact, have a videographer present).
tl;dr Swipe right for Swipe.