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Data gets taken for a dance

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Maricelle's picture

Imagine a dance piece carefully composed and choreographed with the help of new media tools. Imagine its beauty, its simplicity as well as its aesthetic appeal. Come to think of it, it does exist. Data visualisation is now able to manifest itself in both performative and physical spaces.

Choreography, as a performative act, often uses data and new media technology to recreate new ways in which to tell a specific story. Real-time data has the power to express choreographic notation and movements.
 
Just like the notation of music, choreography can be written down and carefully interpreted by the artist or reader by using Labanotation and Benesh notation that carefully express movement.
 
These models provide information about the speed, accuracy and qualitative aspects of choreography by visualising different poses and movements of the performer with the help of a computer generated skeletal structure.
 
Carlson et al. in the paper, ActionPlot: A Visualization Tool for Contemporary Dance Analysis, claim that visualisation in conjunction with choreography refers to one’s ability to recognise an artistic idea.
 
The image illustrates Benesh notation. Image sourced from Wikimedia under the Creative Commons Licence.
 
Synchronous Objects
Choreographer, William Forsythe, animator Maria Palazzi and Ohio State University’s Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD) created Synchronous Objects, a remarkably original project that involves a very detailed analysis of dance as an art form.
 
The visualisations are powerful in that it tells a specific story even at first glance. With its different colours and lines that represent movement, one can easily interpret choreography as an art form. It is almost as if one can see and hear the dancers moving gracefully across the dance floor.
 

The research project aims to express and analyse the intricate choreography of the piece created by Forsythe entitled, One Flat Thing, reproduced (2000). Consisting of 14 dancers and 20 tables, the piece emphasises movement in and between tightly packed tables.

 

The image represents the choreography of “Synchronous Objects” for the piece “One Flat Thing, reproduced”. Image sourced from New York Times.
 
“These [interlocking systems of reactive movement] were quantified through the collection of data and transformed into a series of objects- synchronous objects- that work in harmony to explore those choreographic structures, reveal their patterns and re-imagine what else they might look like,” claims Forsythe.
 
This project, with the help of nifty infographics, 2D and 3D animations, generative algorithms as well as visual dance scores, enables the audience to understand the ideas behind the choreography of a dance piece and makes the audience grasp the movements performed by the dancers.
 
Spatial Data that tracks a single point of the separate dancers in three-dimensional space as well as Attributive Data built from the dancers’ first hand accounts are used to create the motion of each performer via the above-mentioned techniques.
 
The project is thus not only aimed at the audience, but also helps in the facilitation of watching, interpreting, expressing and understanding contemporary choreography or dance pieces.
 
Susana Zaragoza, author of Data Choreography, states “in dance, the visualization of the performance has always been related to the realm of human computer interaction in order to create a sense of closeness between dancers and the audience”. In this sense, the audience has a better understanding of the dance piece itself and is easily able to become part of the process of interpretation of the spatial and temporal.
  
From ideas written down on paper to the act of teaching difficult steps to dancers to data visualisation, it is apparent that choreography has taken big steps to become recognised as an acceptable art form.
 
The next post will deal with Internet memes that are cultural ideas spreading from one person to the next and how it is recognised as a form of data visualisation.