This weekend The University of Brighton hosted a second Dance Hack. As last year’s Dance Hack #1 this was organised in partnership with Li z Mischler from South East Dance and part of Brighton Digital. In difference to last year’s open approach we invited technologists and choreographers to submit seed ideas before hand and selected a few of those. We also invited students form the BA Performance and Visual Arts to join as observer-participants and formed a mixed group of 22 people. Given we had the large Sallis Benney Theatre at at disposal this was a good size group and gave enough space to play for the five clusters that formed in the course of the two days. We used the Friday afternoon to meet and great and to begin to brainstorm ideas and find common ground while the Saturday was used to work, play, explore and test visual, kinetic and technical possibilities. It was noticeable how highly skilled and knowledgeable everyone was, bringing bespoke interactive programmes and refined choreographic toolkits as well as being curious and generous. There was a lot of show and tell as well as new collaborations, and the Hack allowed for people to meet face to face who otherwise only know each other through the web. Even in the digital domain it seems useful to occasionally be in the same room.
It was interesting for me to catch up with this digital avant-garde and to realise how complex and subtle current interfaces and interactions are. Robin McNicolas from Marshmallow Laser Feast introduced us to faceshift for example, a face-mapping software which allows people control pretty much everything in a digital environment through facial muscles and head movements. Marshmallow Laser Feast’s collaboration with the Alexander Whitely Dance Company also premiered at the Old Market on Friday night and was a fine examples of a dialogue between bodies and light and playful choreographic spatial design. Alexander Whitley also joined the Dance Hack and explored looping and repetition of movement on screen to great effect. As technologies are becoming more responsive the dialogues between live bodies and their mediated and projected counterparts are becoming more interesting and complex; for example, a ‘simple’ gesture performed by Alexander became something else all together when repeated, multiplied and looped on screen – or at least the two elements play with our perception in a way that we read and associate very different things.
It also struck me how ‘real’ an experience of virtual space can be, particularly if our own movements are translated into the virtual space and technologies therefore make us believe that we have actually been ‘there’. Extraordinary that we cannot distinguish between mediated, virtual space and actual space, and that we form memories in similar ways. So yes, the potential of what all this can add to our experiences is huge.
Liz Mischler and I are curious to see what will come from these encounters and what else might sprout in the coming days and weeks. We will meanwhile go away and think where we go from here, and what a Dance Hack #3 might look like.
For a brief summery see live stream