En pointe with the hacker world

It’s not often that ballet is inspired by journalism — not to mention hacktivism.
But “HackPolitik” is. The original full-length electroacoustic chamber ballet, written by adjunct music lecturer Peter Van Zandt Lane, MA’08, PhD’13, draws on the stories in “We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous and the Global Cyber Insurgency,” a book written by Forbes journalist Parmy Olson.

On Thursday, Nov. 14, at 6 p.m., Van Zandt Lane and Olson will speak about their unique collaboration at a free event, “Investigating the Hacktivists of Anonymous,” at Brandeis’ Zinner Forum in Heller’s Irving Schneider and Family Building. The talk is co-presented by the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism and the Department of Music.  

Among other topics, Olson will elaborate on the challenges of investigating the secret activities of the hackers known as Anonymous, notorious in some circles and acclaimed in others for their cyberattacks against the websites of major businesses and government operations, including Fox Television, PayPal, the Church of Scientology, the CIA and the governments of Bahrain and Egypt.

Van Zandt Lane was quick to see Olson’s book — which The New York Times called “lively” and “startling” — as a perfect opportunity to use music to stretch journalism’s boundaries.

With art director Lidiya Yankovskaya of the Boston-based Juventas New Music Ensemble and choreographer Kate Ladenheim of the New York dance group the People Movers, Van Zandt Lane adapted the stories of a variety of characters involved with Anonymous, many of whom were portrayed in Olson’s book.

“We didn’t want to simply regurgitate Olson’s journalism,” he says. “We wanted to expand on her work, interpret it through story, which is what traditional ballet is about, and make room for emotional expression.”

Excerpts from the ballet, which premieres Nov. 15-16 at the Boston University Dance Theater, will be shown at the Brandeis event. Books and CDs will be available for purchase, and light refreshments will be served.


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