While I am a classically trained pianist, I grew up dancing ballet and various other styles for several years. By engaging in both art forms, I discovered the mutual impact that dance and piano had on one another in my life. Playing piano developed skills in rhythm, timing, and musical phrasing that I could equally apply while moving on a dance floor; dancing intertwined physical movements with musical gestures and rhythms, allowing me to internalize the music I was hearing in a very external way. This relationship between music and dance continues to impact the way I perceive and perform music, often manifesting itself through the way I physically move while playing the piano. I have always been fascinated by multidisciplinary projects that combine dance and music and had dreamed of somehow merging the two art forms together in performance.

My collaboration with Badie Khaleghian began while we were both earning graduate degrees at the University of Georgia. Khaleghian, an Iranian-American composer, has produced a wide range of works, including solo, chamber music, orchestral, and electro-acoustic compositions. His music, which has been performed in Iran, the United States, Austria, Italy, and Canada, is heavily influenced by his Middle Eastern background and his social justice activism. Khaleghian has also cultivated a passion for collaboration, not only with other musicians, but also with artists and scientists, thus fostering an intersection of disciplines in his work. He particularly enjoys composing music for specific individuals and groups, and further, inviting them into the creative process.

After attending one of my performances in 2017 and learning about my dance background, Khaleghian approached me about collaborating, and we brainstormed a way to intersect piano and dance within a solo piece. The result was Life Suite, which we premiered in 2019. A multidisciplinary work for solo piano, dance, and fixed media, the piece combines both live and recorded solo piano and dance, all of which I performed. A deeply personal work, it features film footage from one of my old dance recital performances and explores not only my own identity as both pianist and dancer, but also the general concept of finding one’s identity.

A year later amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Khaleghian and I began discussing plans for a new multidisciplinary piece that would stretch beyond the scope of Life Suite in both its layering of various media and its incorporation of technology. The resulting composition, which I will further discuss in detail, is Electric Sky Blue (2022) for piano, dance, and interactive intermedia.

Caroline Owen