Tech how to dance

‘Two years ago it was impossible’: how tech turns dance into a multisensory fantasy | Dance

I’m in an abandoned-looking house, where a woman appears like a dancing apparition. Then I’m going down a rabbit hole into a tea party in a bright yellow field. I’m conducting avatars moving to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring; taking part in a dance class where the teacher is a hologram; arriving at a grand Parisian party dressed in Chanel.

These are my recent forays into the world of extended reality (XR) in dance. It is technology that we are told is leading us towards a new metaverse, but in practice can often seem more like watching bad graphics in very uncomfortable headgear and wondering what the point is. Nevertheless, a number of choreographers are exploring what XR could bring to dance, whether in virtual reality (VR), where you are completely immersed in a different world via a large headset; or augmented reality (AR), where you wear glasses that add images into the space around you.

Like stepping into a Disney movie … Le Bal de Paris. Photograph: Blanca Li Dance Company

In an art form that depends on theatres not everyone has access to, XR could be used to attend a virtual performance, or beam specially made dances into your own house. Dance East has even been using AR glasses and 3D volumetric video in schools to provide a virtual teacher to lead dance sessions.

Choreographer Jasmin Vardimon took a dive into VR during the pandemic. Her Alice in VR Wonderland is touring UK shopping centres in the back of a converted truck. I tried it out in a car park in Ashford, ushered in by uniformed attendants, sat in a chair that spins 360 degrees so you can follow the journey, and I was happily magicked into Alice’s world.

‘The performers engage with you on a personal level’ … Alice in VR Wonderland. Photograph: Ben Harries

“I always felt dance on video was not doing it justice,” says Vardimon. “But in VR it’s transformed because the dancers are your size, not tiny people on a screen. It makes you feel like you’re in the space with them. When you sit in a theatre the performers are far away from you, but here they come really close and engage with you on a personal level.”

Vardimon’s piece is certainly a step beyond watching dance recorded for the small screen. But a new production by the Spanish choreographer Blanca Li goes way beyond anything I’ve experienced in VR dance. Once you get past the complicated tech setup, wearing a backpack, headset, wrist and ankle sensors, it’s like stepping into a Disney movie, absorbed into fantastical settings full of surprising reveals: an enormous ballroom with hundreds of choreographed guests, an endless starry night, an extravagant garden party, a Parisian nightclub filled with can-can girls. It is multisensory: on a boat trip you feel the wind brush past you; you smell roses in bloom.

‘Way beyond anything I’ve experienced in VR dance’ … Lyndsey Winship gears up for Le Bal de Paris. Photograph: The Guardian

As well as the scale and imagination, what makes Li’s piece different is that while VR experiences are usually for one or two people, here you are part of a group who can all see and interact with each other’s avatars and the performers – you can talk, laugh and dance together. When Li had the idea for Le Bal de Paris, the technology to do it didn’t exist. “I had this dream: how could we be in a virtual reality space but with real people, and share the experience?” she says. Often you don’t see your own body in a VR world. “You are just like a spirit; you put the glasses on, you are in a beautiful place but you don’t exist.” Li approached the French VR studio Backlight, and together they gradually worked out how to put the viewer’s body into the space alongside more and more other people.

Li has paid as much attention to detail in Le Bal de Paris as she would any stage show. She asked Chanel to design the costumes – “I couldn’t have the dresses made by a group of boys who design video games” – and they created a virtual collection for her, which, delightfully, participants also get to “wear”. She worked on making sure the dresses moved like real fabric (when I kicked my leg, the white satin of my gown slipped away like an actual dress) and that bodies move almost as gracefully as dancers do.

The show is a musical, although the plot is neither here nor there compared with the visual wonder. I was certainly more lost in the 35-minute experience than any other I’d tried, and less aware of the gear and how silly I must have looked from the outside. Li expects many more shows like hers to be made in the coming years, but loves the fact that the audience coming to see it now don’t really know what to expect. “I like the idea of doing things that could not ever have been done before,” she says. “To say: two or three years ago this was impossible. But today we can do it.”

  • Le Bal de Paris is at the Barbican, London, 1-9 April and 19-28 May. Alice in VR Wonderland tours McArthurGlen designer outlets until 15 May.

A Fascinating Collaboration — SheCanCode

As a professional dancer transitioning into a new career in tech, I wanted to take some time to learn about the innovations around technology and dance.

I often think of dance and other types of art as something purely human, as artists we are able to express something unique and intimate through our art, but it is true that the intervention of technology is essential to make the show happen, lights, video, audio, visual arts and many other technical components that contribute to the success of the wonderful show. All of that and some other very interesting interventions of technology in the professional dance world continue to develop.

Since decades, prestigious personalities of the dance world have used technology as a choreographic tool for the creation of their work. It has played an important role in the preservation and creation of dance.

Dancer and Choreographer Merce Cunningham used the software Lifeforms by Credo Interactive (later Danceforms) to create dance works in the 1990’s. The software allows you to sketch out choreographic ideas using dance figures, manipulate movement poses and sequences as well as combining several bodies, and see the work from different angles.

This is an interesting article about this software.

Award winning British choreographer and director Wayne McGregor, bringing innovation and radical ideas he has become an iconic presence when speaking about choreography in the modern era. I learned that he has a science background and has always been curious in exploring creativity and new ways of movement. After a long career he wondered if technology could help him keep his performances fresh and took on a project with Google Arts & Culture Lab and produced something that I find fascinating.

This collaboration consists in teaching artificial intelligence to dance. They trained an algorithm using ten of McGregor’s dancers that were recorded while dancing in their unique style as well as using many hours of video from the choreographer’s work.

The tool is created by algorithms that can make predictions about a given movement. The technology takes the input from video getting the shape of the dancer’s body, the dynamic, articulation and position, the input is then run through 3 algorithms and is able to guess what the next pose will be, producing several choreographic sequences, offering new ideas in the style of a particular dancer or even a combination of styles of two different dancers. The purpose of their work is to generate a creative process that is much more efficient and fast and then it is up to the choreographer how to make us of this material.

You can read more about this following this link.

What I find fascinating is that extremely talented and creative artists are humble enough and curious to explore beyond what they know. For Merce Cunningham, working with the software was a way to expand his imagination and the possibilities of movement, for Wayne McGregor to generate a more efficient creative process.

I believe that the power of these tools relies in the world of possibilities that it can generate, they open up the space to explore original ideas. I imagine a performance where dancers are creating music with their bodies as they interact with each other, or maybe AI generating a choreography in real-time in response to a dancer is movement.

I was part of a Mexican Folk Dance Company that fused Ballet with their traditional dances, now imagine if we could keep exploring this type of collaboration and bring new things to life.

We have applied technology to almost every sector of our society, it influences how we interact with the world and with one another and since it has brought us endless sources of knowledge and possibilities and I am excited to see what kind of interactions will continue to develop.

Career DevelopmentAbril Anchondo ReynagaMay'21


Dance Technique

Adama Sevani, better known as Robert Alexander III from the Step Up dance franchise once said, “Dance can change lives. One move can set a whole generation free, make you think you're worth something, and some moves can give you hope that you're special. " Is it really necessary to go through several stages of research. To begin with, it is necessary to find out what a dance is, then to analyze the stages of evolution, only at the end to conclude what a dance really is. Let's start with a historical background: “Dance is rhythmic, expressive body movements, usually built into a certain composition and performed with musical accompaniment. Dance is the oldest of the arts, since it is able to reflect the need of a person, dating back to the earliest times, to convey to other people their joy or sorrow through their body. All important events in the life of a primitive man were celebrated with dances: birth, death, war, the election of a new leader, the healing of the sick. The dance expressed prayers for rain, for sunlight, for fertility, for protection and forgiveness. Dance movements originate from the basic forms of human movement - walking, running, jumping, bouncing, jumping, sliding, turning and swinging. The totality of such movements gradually turned into the “pas” of traditional dances. The main parameters of the dance are rhythm - a relatively fast or relatively slow repetition and modification of basic movements; drawing - a set of movements in the composition; dynamics - variation in the scope and intensity of movements; technique - the level of body control and skill in performing basic steps. In many dances, gestures are also important, especially hand movements. The dance has different means of expression, namely: harmonious movements and postures, plasticity and facial expressions, dynamics "variation of the scope and intensity of movements", amplitude, tempo and rhythm of movement, spatial pattern, composition, costume and props.

Mastering dance skills is closely related to the activation of attention, thinking, memory, the formation of self-control, ways of developing a sense of rhythm and tact. In the process of learning to dance, it is possible and necessary to use improvisation (when dancers invent movements directly during the performance), broken movements.

For those who have never been involved in dancing, the above will remain ordinary words, a little familiar, but still, words. For everyone else who is even a little connected with dancing, each word has its own separate meaning. However, do not forget that emotions also depend on the plot of the dance. The dancer can be of any height and weight, during the classes the inner world is revealed through a kind of dance technique: expressiveness of movements, gestures, facial expressions, postures, understanding one’s body in space and understanding the work of muscle groups, glorifying the beauty and harmony of the human body, sentimentally gentle manifestations . The reason for the success of the performance lies in the high technique of movements, which leads to coherence, lightness, ease and expressiveness of the dance performance. Under the technique of performing dance movements is understood the ability to correctly and accurately perform dance movements. “The content and depth of a choreographic work can be accurately revealed only with the help of an accurate performing technique of dance. Where there is no precisely developed dance technique, there can be no true art,” says N. Tarasov, an outstanding choreographer and teacher. Any choreographic work, that is, a dance, consists of movements, each of which, in turn, consists of several elements. Each genre of choreography, whether it be classical, folk or modern dance, has its own set of basic elements and movements, created over many centuries of the existence of dance art. With the help of these movements, complemented by gestures and facial expressions, dance performers convey to the viewer not only the thoughts, feelings, experiences of the characters, but also the very content of the dance work. No matter how different the movements of dances of different genres are from each other, they will not only affect the viewer if they are performed technically, that is, competently and accurately. “Precision is not a template, not simple professional pedantry, but a lively sense of dance, which determines the perfection of performing skills. Accuracy allows the dancer to acquire plastic harmony, self-confidence, and creative activity. The concept of "near", "near", "approximately" is not compatible with the dance technique. The slightest rhythmic and plastic inaccuracy indicates that the performer does not have mastery,” writes N. Tarasov. That is why, teaching children to dance, developing performance qualities, it is necessary from their first steps in choreography to form the ability to accurately and correctly perform all dance movements.

The driving force behind all this is the desire of the dancer to be different from others, and the absence of strict norms allows you to observe the only rule - everyone has the right to individuality. High dance technique does not appear on its own, it is formed gradually, from lesson to lesson for several years, and along with it the mastery of performance grows. The technique of movements depends on the preparedness of the entire motor apparatus of the trainees, on the training and education of the entire body of the child - muscles, psyche, nervous system. Work on performing technique begins at a young age with the setting of the body, training of individual muscle groups and the entire body of the pupils, the formation of the simplest skills of various movements in them. This is achieved by performing exercises for various parts of the body: legs, arms, head, body - and each of these exercises is performed according to certain rules. The firm conviction of the majority of outstanding choreographers that only a school of classical dance is able to develop a high dance technique among students.

The school of classical dance, which has a huge range of technical and expressive means, is the basis used by performers of all genres of stage choreography. “All genres of stage choreography use, to one degree or another, the performing technique of classical dance, which helps to achieve a higher and more perfect performance level,” N. Tarasov interprets.

Thus, in the educational work on mastering the art of dance, it is necessary to use the system of classical dance in order to form in children the skills of performing dance elements and movements. But, most importantly, this system of exercises helps to strengthen muscles, posture, develop such qualities as stability, flexibility and other indicators of the dancers' physical readiness for learning and performing dance. From all of the above, you can make the only right choice.

Dance technique is of great importance for the formation of the performing skills of dancers. Dance movements honed to automatism cease to occupy the child's thoughts, and then all his attention goes to the music and the nature of the image that he reflects in the dance, expressing his own attitude to the movements performed. So the dance technique becomes the basis of musicality, expressiveness and individuality of performance.

Thus, the teacher must use maximum means in order to strike and then improve the technique of dance movements performed by children, which will certainly lead to the desired result of learning in a choreographic group - the mastery of dance performance.

Dance Technique - 9 halls

Many teachers set themselves the goal of revealing the creative potential of the student, stimulating creativity, expanding creative tools and mastering the variety of basic elements. In any lesson, it is very important to feel every movement, to perform it cleanly and expressively. However, for a variety of reasons, it is impossible to work out individual elements to the ideal. Especially for these purposes there is a class on Dance Technique.

The lesson includes a warm-up, work on balance, plasticity and strength, working out of technical elements: jumps, rotations, swings, etc. The focus will be on breathing, coordination, control and energy. The goal that this lesson sets for itself is awareness of physical capabilities and understanding of one's body, reasonable and efficient use of its resources and capabilities.

At the end of the lesson there is an opportunity to work on improvisation based on the movements worked out during the lesson. You will be able to get to know your body and its limitless possibilities in a new way, realize your creative potential and concentrate all your attention on working out the basic elements.

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