Visualization *of* dance & visualization *via* dance


[The above image is from the post “Math Dances: Imitating Data Visualization Techniques through Dance” as found on the blog information aesthetics. The video is by Tufts University applicant Amelia Downs. Thank you.]

We just submitted two student applications to ISEA2014 (in addition to my faculty application for “Debauched Kinesthesia” that I sent in December of 2013). The two pieces are “augmented” solos for two undergraduate dancers at UVU, Dixon Bowles and Mindy Houston. Both are wonderfully talented dancers and I’m fortunate to work with them.

The two pieces are of particular interest to me personally because they build on my other academic interest (i.e., the one that I’m paid money for), which is data and data visualization. The first piece is a visualization of the dance’s data. It’s slightly tongue-in-cheek but still neat, especially as it all happens while the dancer is dancing. The second takes a different angle by making the dance itself the visualization of other data (in this case, a poem). The choreography is created to reflect the progression in the poem and then the visuals, which are recorded and looped live, are arranged in such a way as to magnify the structure and development.

Here are the official descriptions that we sent in with the applications. The first piece is Dixon’s.

The Dance and the Meta-Dance: Live Performance and Live Visualization

This proposal is for a live, solo dance performance that is augmented with video and motion tracking. The video and motion data are used for two live visualizations that are projected on each side of the dance. For the first projection or “meta-dance”, the video data is captured with a small web camera and is processed in Max/MSP/Jitter using the Cyclops object, which analyzes RGB data to allow for motion tracking in real-time. The resulting motion data are then used by the program to “evaluate” the performance on several criteria derived from Margaret H’Doubler’s web of principles of dance composition: Climax, Transition, Balance, Sequence, Repetition, Harmony, Variety and Contrast. These values are standardized and displayed as both streaming bar and radar charts as well time-series plots to highlight periodicity in the performance. For the second “meta-dance” projection, motion data from a Kinect depth camera are used to identify the three-dimensional coordinates of key body points in the dancer, such as head, shoulders, hands, and hips. These coordinates are then drawn on the screen as abstract ribbons or streams that rotate and fade over time, highlighting the temporality and abstractness of dance. Taken together, the live performer’s dance and the two “visual commentaries” or “meta-dances” offer multiple psychological and social realities on performative art. They also represent an initial step in the establishment of live visualization of dance-derived data as an art form in itself.

And the second piece is Mindy’s.

The Triple Fool + 2: A Performance for Poetry, Dance, and Data Visualization

This live dance performance is based on the poem “The Triple Fool” by John Donne (1572-1631), in which Donne complains that he is a fool in three ways: (1) for falling in love; (2) for “saying so in whining poetry,” and (3) for grieving again when his verse is put to music. This performance expands on Donne’s lament by expressing it in two other media: first in dance by a solo performer, which is recorded live with a small web camera and processed in Max/MSP/Jitter, and second by a data visualization of the poem’s text, which is revealed as the dance progresses, showing the relationships between the poem’s structures and ideas. The dance, however, serves a critical, additional function: the performance itself becomes a visualization of the text, as video clips of the performance (all of which are recorded live) are selected by the program and looped on two adjacent screens in such a way that the structure and relationships within the dance (as constructed by the live performer and the projected doubles) mirror those of the poem. That is, the dance is not just an kinesthetic, affective enactment but a visualization of the poem’s textual data. Thus, the dance performance and the data visualization become two additional means for exploring/compounding Donne’s grief, adding two additional “fools” to his original three.

We should find out by the end of March whether the performances are accepted. (And I should find out about mine in about two weeks.) We’re keeping fingers crossed.


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