ACEDIA at the Athenaeum fuses live dance and digital tech

A dance performance at an iconic Sunderland building will utilise ground-breaking digital technology to reflect Wearsiders’ experience through the Covid pandemic. 

ACEDIA by acclaimed Southpaw Dance Company will fuse live dance with an app created for the performance at The Athenaeum building on Fawcett Street, where electric lightbulb inventor Joseph Swann attended photography lectures. 

The performances will be over the August Bank Holiday weekend – Friday, August 27 to Sunday, August 29. Tickets costing £8 are available from Sunderland Culture’s website (sunderlandculture.org.uk) but are limited to 15 per show and are expected to sell out quickly. 

ACEDIA will start with one live dancer, and four other dancers whose performances will feature on iPads provided for the audience, will then expand the show. 

Robby Graham, Artistic Director of award-winning Southpaw, explained: “We’ve worked with digital artist Rupert Stamp on a bespoke ACEDIA app and the show is going to be a bit special, something really different. We’re using live performance and innovative technology to create a unique experience in a wonderful, historic space – ACEDIA will be the first live performance in the recently restored Athenaeum. 

“ACEDIA is a word we’re using to describe the combination of listlessness, anxiety, and the inability to concentrate so many of us experienced during Covid lockdowns.  

“In ACEDIA, we see many different versions of the same character, layered and overlapped, creating a sense of pandemic isolation. In a prolonged time-lapse of their time in lockdown, we see the contrasting versions of our performer and their means of coping in a confined environment. As the days and weeks pass and isolation sets in, our performer’s repetitive routine slips and further versions of our performer appear, evidently struggling with prolonged isolation. 

“Our story, scripted by Lee Mattinson, examines the possibilities and the optimism of re-connecting with friends and family, and finding ourselves once again as we emerge from lockdown restrictions.” 

Helen Green, Head of Performance at Sunderland Culture, added: “Sunderland audiences may remember Southpaw’s performance of Faust on top of the St Mary’s Car Park back in 2016. ACEDIA, using ground-breaking techonology, promises to be just as special and tickets will go very quickly – Southpaw has a national reputation for its indoor and outdoor spectaculars.” 

ACEDIA is the last of three Sunderland Culture commissions awarded through Arts Council England’s National Lottery Project Grants aimed at capturing the hopes and anticipation of audiences as pandemic restrictions are eased. 

The first project, Space Camp: Hylton We Have a Problem, was a space adventure set in a shipping container on Roker Beach, and produced and delivered by new theatre company tiny dragon. 

The second project, Club Six Twenty, a collaboration between theatre company The Six Twenty and artist Ronan Devlin, will be a one-night only event at Independent nightclub on Holmeside, Sunderland, on Thursday, August 26. Club Six Twenty will be a live, lovingly recreated homage to the 90s rave scene featuring popular band Picnic as the headliner. There will be other musicians, DJs, dancers, a digital installation from Sunderland artist Jo Howell and a chill-out room upstairs complete with a digital wall created by Ronan Devlin. 

Tickets for Club Six Twenty cost £10 and again can be bought through Sunderland Culture’s website. 

Helen Green added: “We’re ensuring audiences at both Independent and The Athenaeum are as Covid safe as possible – we’ll be encouraging social distancing and audience numbers have been restricted to provide more space for everyone.” 

Originally opened in 1843, The Athenaeum building was an important cultural hub for Sunderland, playing an important role in the development of culture, design, engineering and photography in the region. The building has been brought back to life by visual arts organisation Breeze Creatives who have opened up the building to the public after extensive investment in the creation of studios, creative workspace and office space alongside a new gallery. 

For more information about ACEDIA, go to www.sunderlandculture.org.uk or keep an eye on Sunderland Culture’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.