[dance-tech] FW: "Digital" Dance

  • From: "jdm" <jp32868@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: dance-tech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 20 Jan 2006 09:11:45 -0700

Some words about dance and technology...picking up on Kirk¹s posts,
I tend to agree with your notion that making a distinction between digital
dance and other kinds of dance and technology may not always be so useful.
Many of us worked in the cross over period, when digital technologies were
coming on line as computer capacity increased. My first interactive work,
MISE in 1987-8 with choreographer Gary Lund, used analog sensors converted
to MIDI using a FORTÉ Music MIDI chip. Was this digital dance? I suppose. By
1989 we were using Amiga computers to project real-time graphics, and used
different typed of MIDI controllers (ACCESS MAPPER) for systems control of
sound and image. 

However these systems mirrored work created in the 60s by people like Cage,
Cunningham, Robert Moog, Gordon Mumma, David Tudor and others in Variations
V, produced for German Television. This 1965 work had body sized therimins
made by moog, film projections by Stan Vanderbeek, manipulated TV images by
Nam June Paik, and a bank of reel-to-reel tape machines controlled
interactively by photo sensors! Sensor systems were designed by Billy
Klüver, who went on to form the EAT group with Rauschenberg  and others in
the next year (and eventually created the nine evenings mentioned by Simon).

Today I see a lot of efforts that mirror to some degree work done on analog
systems in the 60¹s and earlier. It seems that new technologies often begin
life recreating what has already been done.

Incidentally, in 1989 Klüver and Rauschenberg got together again to create a
system for Trisha Brown¹s Astral Convertible. I¹m not sure if it was digital
or analog, but I believe that it could have been done with an all analog
system. It ran on car batteries so it could be performed in a roman
amphitheater in Spain that did not have electricity..

I wonder if it would be more informative (and perhaps more illusive) to
think about the history/evolution of the conception and practice of dance
and technology, with the digital/analog question seen as part of that
discourse. After all, digital will be obsolete one day.

To answer some of Johannes¹s and Simon¹s questions. Workshops at ASU started
in 2000, the year after we hosted IDAT99., and just after ADaPT was formed.
We have recently decided to share these summer workshops between four
institutions (U Utah, U Illinios, U Wisc Milwakee and ASU) starting next
year, and will move from site to site each year. We are taking this summer
off in order to plan more effectively for next year which will be held in

CyberArts has had dance occasionally but starting last year a group of
artists began an ?official¹ dance component to Cyberarts that they are
committed to continuing, called Ideas in Motion. ISEA has had many
performance technology related events over the years. It would take some
research to pull them all up but there is documentation at least.

Here in Arizona the Institute for Studies in the Arts was formed in 1990 and
we staged our first interactive dance/theater/music performance in 1991. It
was also the first time MAX was used in a stage performance on this campus.
Over the next decade the Institute supported quite a bit of work in dance
and technology, too long to go into here. But what may be of interest to
Simon is that we built our own motion analysis, or vision system, created by
Robb Lovell, to control sound, images and even video. At first we used Amiga
computers and the CMT MIDI tool kit developed by Roger Dannenberg at
Carnigie Mellon. We output midi to MAC computers running MAX, or to other
Amiga computers running animations. The first publicly performed work with
this system was created in 1992. A couple of years later this system was
ported to an SGI Indigo (running at a whopping 50Mhz) and used serial data
to connect directly to Mac¹s running sound (MIDI-based) and controlling
laser disc players (analog), video switching and other stuff. This system
was used in a collaboration with Montanaro Dance in 1994-5, and the piece we
created, Time in the Eye of the Needle, was performed at ISEA95 in Montreal.
This vision system was eventually ported to the Mac, and Robb made it
available for a while online, although I do not know what the state of it is

Thecla Schiphorst did a lot of work in dance and technology in the early
90¹s as well. Besides her well known work with Life Forms, she also
co-organized a couple of early dance and technology labs called the Shadow
Project at Simon Fraser University. I was involved in the second year, and
others there included John Crawford, Louis Demers, Michael Century, and
others. OK, I¹ve gone on long enough, but I do agree with Simon that it is
time (and possible now) to try and centralize information in the interest of
creating really new possibilities and capabilities. What is the first step?



------ Forwarded Message
From: Kirk Woolford <phred@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Reply-To: <phred@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 19 Jan 2006 13:55:22 +0000
To: "dance-tech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <dance-tech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Subject: [dance-tech] "Digital" Dance

As an ammendum to the last message on the history of digital dance, I
have to say I find the whole term quite curious. In 1994, I produced
two videos for Charleroi Danses' "Ex Machina". In 1996, I built a
live tracking system for "Moving Target" -- again, by Charleroi
Danses. The videos I made for "Ex Machina" were created on a
Macintosh Quadra using a very early version of Adobe Premiere. This
was almost an entirely digital process, however the end product was
"video" so most people would consider the performance a piece of
"video dance". On the otherhand, "Moving Target" had a Silicon
Graphics computer sitting up in the lighting box and projected live,
computer-generated images onto the stage (at least during the initial
performances) , so most people would consider it "digital dancing".

Unfortunately, by this definition, neither of the two pieces I
mentioned earlier, Dumb Type's "*OR*" and Cunningham/Riverbed's "Hand
Drawn Spaces" qualify as "digital dance". Many people are willing to
call "*OR*" video dance, but they insist that "Hand Drawn Spaces" is
digital, not because digital technologies were involved in it's
creation. It is, after all, just a video projected on stage with the
performers.  "Hand Drawn Spaces" is digital dance because it looks
the way we expect digital dance to look. It's not photo-realistic.
It's abstract, with saturated colours against a flat background.

In other words, is "digital dance" a technical term, or is it an


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