Figurative Dance


Merce’s Isosurface (Excerpt) from Golan Levin on Vimeo.
Motion capture data from a session with Merce Cunningham performing Solo for Hands has been made a available for artists to interpret. The mocap data files and some illuminating context has been made accessible by the OpenEnded Group.

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The OpenEndedGroup’s process of working with Merce Cunningham’s performance capture of Solo for Hands for their piece Loops.

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Ghostcatching (1999) with Paul Kaiser, Shelley Eshkar, Bill T. Jones is one of  the OpenEndedGroup’s  pioneering works in the use of mocap for notating and extending choreographic performance.  They returned to the mocap data of Bill T. Jones performances and re-envisioned the piece in 2010 creating the stereoscopic 3D film After Ghostcatching (the 2D version above is show above).  You can explore ideas central to their work in the Writings section of their website.

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As with Marcel Duchamp’s seminal painting Nude Descending a Staircase, No.2, Norman McLaren’s Pas de Deux was inspired by the chronophotography of Étienne-Jules Marey. McLaren’s studied use of the optical printer for creating dynamic temporal and spatial offsets can be seen to share similarities with the compositional devices later used by John Whitney Sr. and Larry Cuba in films such as Arabesque and Calculated Movements. Similar approaches to structuring and revealing image flow may also be seen in many contemporary real-time digital works.

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William Forsythe has been developing ideas and techniques for mapping dance space for many years.  His work is typically not created with optical marker motion capture, but utilizes camera processed images.  He has created a comprehensive series of studies analyzing dance gesture and figuration.  The 2012 trailer for the Motion Bank project gives some sense of the scope of his endeavors, and the selected animations Synchronous Objects from his dance piece, One Flat Thing, reproduced, a quick look at details of a specific work.

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The video, unnamed sound sculpture, was created using multiple Kinect ranging systems to capture a dancers motion in the round. The motion data is edited in a set of overlapping segments that are rendered using multiple particle systems to create a sand like particle flow cascading from the ever forming choreographic movement.

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This documentation clip demonstrates some of the production process including variations on the dynamic simulations used to render unnamed sound sculpture.

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This trailer created for the ImPulsTanz dance festival shows other variations in rendering the dancers movement:

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Forms, A series videos created from motion capture simulations based on 2D cinematography were used to create a dynamic set of abstracted motion graphics interpretations of athletic movement for In the Blink of an Eye: Media and Movement exhibition at Great Britain’s National Media Museum. Memo Akten and Quayola worked with a team at Nexus Interactive Arts to realize the pieces. Note how the sound design enhances the sense of physical presence created by the lighting and motion of the abstractions in these excerpts:

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The following text regarding the 2009 film experiment, Reincarnation, is taken directly from the website of Memo Akten.

Directed by, visuals and programming by Memo Akten
Choreography by Alexander Whitley
Dancers Robin Gladwin and Miguel Altunaga

“Reincarnation” is an off-shoot film born while creating visuals for The Rambert Dance Company and flat-e‘s “Iatrogenesis” performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank, London UK.

Created with custom software (c++ using openframeworks + opencv + opengl) tracking the motion of the dancers and generating these visuals, abstract layers containing subtle hints of human forms and motion.

This film (and music) is not representative of the visuals (and music) of flat-e & Rambert’s “Iatrogenesis”. This is a standalone film born from working on that project.

When the clip starts, you probably won’t recognize a human shape at first, but your eyes and mind will be searching, seeking mental connections between abstract shapes and recognizable patterns, like looking for shapes in clouds. You’ll be questioning what you see, is that it? is it sitting? is it crouching? is it kneeling? Then all of a sudden, it’ll be crystal clear. Then you’ll try and keep it in focus, following it as it moves around, tracking each limb, using the motion to construct an image of the parts you can’t see. It’ll fade in and out of clarity. At times you’ll be clinging onto just the tip of it’s hand swinging round, trying to identify any other recognizable parts. You might see another arm or leg and grab onto it, fighting not to lose it. Then it’ll be crystal clear again, and then all of a sudden vanish, literally in a puff of smoke, and your eyes will start searching again.

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Together with Yoko Ando, YCAM has been working on the Reactor for Awareness in Motion (RAM) project, focusing on the research and development of tools for dance creation, since 2011. RAM is based on the idea of perceiving dance as something generated from a dialogue between bodies and the environment, stage space and other dancers, rather than pre-determined choreography. A new scheme of dance accompanying a different perception of the body emerges from this conception. Through this project, a tool has been developed that can apply a virtual environment to a dancer’s body. Dancers inherently discover rules and strategies to create new dance with this tool.

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A look at yet another set of interactive installations incorporating dance movement –and the thinking behind them– created by the design team of Hellicar and Lewis. This Video from The Creators Project deals with the theme of play. I found the following quote from Pete Hellicar about the power of pure play had a resonance with Taoist (and other traditions) thinking concerning the spiritual value of simply being in the moment.

“The thing with play is that –if its good– you’re not thinking about it, you’re just completely consumed. Its a kind of release for people. Its a moment where you don’t have to think about it at all and you’re just there.”