Darren Johnston’s Zero Point is “awe inspiring, exceptional mastery”

Darren Johnston, Zero Point, image credit Taisuke Tsurui

The renowned British choreographer and multi-disciplinary artist Darren Johnston, has confirmed once again his exceptional mastery in experimenting with electronic music and new technologies to create a show that is a powerful synthesis of contemporary dance, music and visual art.

Using advanced light effects and motion sensing technology, Johnston created a sensory journey through the exploration of the scientific and spiritual concepts of zero point, related to the eastern idea of rebirth, minimalism and quantum physics.

With a dance influenced by Butoh, Eastern rituals, and neo-classical ballet, the cast of Japanese dancers research paradoxes between tradition and technology in Japanese culture.

Darren Johnston, Zero Point, image credit Foteini Christofilopoulou
Darren Johnston, Zero Point, image credit Foteini Christofilopoulou

At the beginning, strobe lights dominate the stage, intentionally disturbing audience’s perception; dancers emerge slowly from the darkness guided only by thin streams of light from the backdrop. Lights and shadows caress the body of a dancer trapped inside a luminous cone projecting on the floor concentric circles in motion.

Slowly rising on her pointe, enclosed in a square of light, Hana Sakai performs a touching piece while dancers behind her reflect part of her movements, like a ritual. Accompanied by a soft rhythm, her graceful and delicate physicality convey a sense of ethereal suspension.

Striking light effects create visual architectures and cast patterns onto dancers’ bodies, turning them into figures without density, like holograms. Towards the end, waves of digital data flow horizontally, giving the impression of swiping away the duet dancing on the stage.

Darren Johnston, Zero Point, image credit Darren Johnston
Darren Johnston, Zero Point, image credit Darren Johnston

Hypnotic and surreal vibes flood the ambience generating a trance-like atmosphere. All is magnified by electronic rhythm and ambient music composed by the Canadian sound artist, Tim Hecker.

There is a lot of research behind the production of this awe-inspiring project. Johnston developed these concepts in 2013 in Japan during his residency at the Museum of Art in Kochi, where he visited several shrines, observed Buddhist rituals and mingled with local nature and countryside. He then started to work on a choreography that was presented as a work in progress at the Barbican Theatre in 2014. This is the finished version of Zero Point, a project that has been continuously developed over the past few years.

Zero Point is co-commissioned by The Museum of Art in Kochi, Perth International Arts Festival, and Barbican.

Reviewed by Francesca Marotto at the Barbican on 25 May.