Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Immeasurable? The Dance in Dance Science conference at LABAN on Saturday was excellent. There was a person there who changed my weary perception about dance and computers. Being an intersubjectivist, I have always been a little bit concerned about the interface between the human being and technology (in the broadest sense). Needless to say, I still have a mobile phone and a website…

Matthew Gough, a PhD student at the School of computing Sciences, University of East Anglia gave a presentation at the conference in which he shared his developments on a computer programme that he is developing that can be used as a choreographic tool. What interested me most about his presentation was when he gave an example of how the programme could be used. Matthew said that you could programme into the computer information about exactly how a hand moves (i.e. how the fingers open and close, spread apart and come together etc.). With this programme you could make any part of the body move like a hand. For example, the programme could show you how the spine would look if it were moving like a hand. This would not just a symbolic representation of how the spine would move if it were a hand – but it actually let you see how a spine could move like a hand. Fascinating.

This example really got me thinking about all the image-based choreography I’m doing at the moment. It especially got me thinking about the butoh dance of Atsushi Takenouchi and how he tries to move as if one side of his body is paralysed. A programme such as this would allow you to see what movement with this condition would really look like, therefore strengthening the image in your imagination because you would have seen a replica of this movement quality in the programme.

I’d be really interested in investigating the effects of the programme on the thought processes of performers especially in the context of improvisation. To me, it seems that data from this programme could serve as another layer in the cyclical mind-body feedback loop: The performer repeats an image in their mind until the body responds -- the performer perceives the body’s form/movement and envisions the image seen in the computer programme – the form/movement of the body responds to this new image -- and so the cycle continues.

I try to move my back like I move my hand. My imagination tells me it is possible to try this and my body responds physically but what is the aim of my improvisation? I suppose I find myself back at an issue of movement aesthetics. Would what I see in terms of movement possibility created by this programme promote or hinder my invention? Guess I’ll have to wait until Matthew brings his programme out into the public market so I can give it a whirl…


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