Big Tent comes to IU


Robin Cox, musician and faculty with the Department of Music and Arts Technology at IUPUI, plays his violin during the "Nearing the End of the Hourglass" dance performance on Thursday. His wife Stephanie Nugent and her students danced nearby. Emily Berryman

Eight reverse projector screens were arranged in a 360-degree visual display at the Indiana Memorial Union Alumni Hall on Thursday. The Big Tent, a multimedia presentation hailing from Indianapolis, came to IU for an all-day event combining music, dance and multimedia. 

Norbert Herber, an IU Media School sound design lecturer, said he worked with music and arts technology professor Ben Smith for Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, who provided the equipment, sound effects and some of the visuals for the event.

“The message of this space is get up," Smith said. "Get up off your butt and experience this medium, you can watch it on your device all day long, but this, there is no sitting down here. There is stuff all around you. People come in and they look around and they have to turn around, ‘oh, hey look there it is over there.’”

Stepahnie Nugent, an IU contemporary dance professor led an improvisational dance performance for the event's finale. 

“It’s a contact improv event, so it’s a structured dance for anybody who wants to participate,” Smith said. 

Nugent said she warned Herber and Smith that the tent might be filled to capacity during the finale. The dance department was very excited because it's the Big Tent's first time in Bloomington, Smith said.  

Stephanie Nugent helps her students create a human pyramid in a dance called "Nearing the end of the Hourglass", the finale to the Big Tent event on Thursday. When the music finally stopped, the dancers kept moving for another 15 minutes before Nugent spoke up and ended the exhibition.  Emily Berryman

Smith said he was contacted by the the Lotus World Music and Arts Festival about including the Big Tent in the 2018 festival. Smith said there were no concrete ideas for what role the Big Tent would play in the festival next year. 

Herber, however, said he was inspired by Thursday’s event and hoped to reproduce some of the same feel the following year. 

“It will be a challenge to do something that doesn’t duplicate what happens at Lotus, which is lots of dancing,” Herber said. “We may be using it in a way that is a little more meditative. Something that is a release from all the crowds and loud tents.”

While the event's finale involved dance, the walkthrough portion of the event featured abstract films by IU art students and films created by those participating in the Wounded Galaxy booth at the First Thursday arts festival earlier this month.

“Having sound and moving images in the same place has been a thing for a long time, but for us as composers and musicians it is kind of a novel thing,” Herber said. “Now composers will write pieces and they will have a visual part, and you will think about it as one cohesive work. We are now able to step into the kind of venue that was only available to filmmakers.”

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