Choreographer and filmmaker Merli Guerra has created 360-degree, extended reality videos that use dance to tell stories about the history of the Colonnade at the Princeton Battlefield State Park.
The videos are viewable on mobile phones as augmented reality if you are on the battlefield grounds or as a virtual reality experience when viewed elsewhere. The park, the site of the 1777 Battle of Princeton, helped turn the tide of the Revolutionary War. The Colonnade was built a half-century after the battle as part of a mansion designed by Thomas Ustick Walter, an architect of the U.S. Capitol building. After the original mansion’s demolition in 1900, the structure of four stone columns was moved from Philadelphia to Princeton to adorn the Mercer Manor, which stood at the edge of the battlefield. The Colonnade survived the 1957 demolition of Mercer Manor and was dedicated as a national historic monument in 1962 that serves as a marker for the nearby gravesite of fallen American and British Revolutionary War soldiers.
Guerra’s videos are available for viewing on smartphones and other electronic devices via her website for The Time Traveler’s Lens, which launched for the public on April 19, Patriots’ Day.
The five-video production is Guerra’s thesis concert for her master’s of fine arts in dance at Rutgers University. “In Revolution,” is an acrobatic re-creation of the Battle of Princeton in which two dancers represent a British and an American soldier. “Passage” features gray-clad dancers representing the marble columns as they make their trek up the Delaware and Raritan Canal from Pennsylvania to New Jersey. “Dwelling” shows a view into the lives of the three Philadelphia and Princeton families who knew the Colonnade as part of their homes. “Conception: Architect as deity” and “Remains: Architect as mortal” depict the Colonnade’s designer when the structure was created and in the 21st century.
The five videos will remain available indefinitely. They are accessible free of charge to visitors who follow the clues on the website to a code word that can be found at the Princeton Battlefield site. For people who are unable to visit the grounds in person, a one-time ticket fee unlocks the virtual reality performance. Ticket fees support community programming for Guerra’s Luminarium Dance Company.