In the software world, the “alpha release” is the “not-quite-ready-for-primetime” version. It is usually circulated internally so the bugs can be worked out, although there are occasionally public alpha releases by very daring (or foolish) companies. I’m not totally sure which of the two camps we fall into, but here is an extremely non-professional video – we like to call it the “bootleg version” – of our first public performance of Dance Loops.
The full name of this particular piece is “Dance Loops, Alpha Release: Trio with Live, Interactive Video Looping.” It was performed at the Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. The dancers, in order of appearance, are Hannah Braegger McKeachnie, Izzy Arrieta-Silva, and Molly Buonforte, all of whom are undergraduate dance majors at Utah Valley University, where I teach. I designed the visuals and did the programming in Max/MSP/Jitter, while Jacque Lynn Bell (my wife and professional choreographer) and Nichole Ortega (chair of the UVU Department of Dance) provided choreographic input. The music is by Julia Kent (with an edited version of “Gardermoen” in the first piece and the complete version of “A Spire” in the last) and Zoë Keating (with an edited version of “Legions (War)” in the middle piece). By the way, those are live links to their websites where you can buy each piece of music, along with everything else they make! (I have all of their music and you should, too.)
Now, a few alpha release issues with this performance.
- The video is shot way off to the side and aimed wrong. The primary video camera didn’t work and, well, this is what we have. Better than nothing (but maybe not by much).
- It’s in a classroom auditorium with a very shallow stage and no theatre lighting, but that’s the nature of this event.
- The projections are way too fuzzy for this situation; we wanted them a little fuzzy but on this shiny surface it was really exaggerated.
- The videos are projected too high; we wanted to avoid the wood rail but learned that the videos need to be on the same level as the dancer and the same size to work best, wood rail be damned.
- We though that there was too much synchronization in the projections during the last rehearsal, so I removed a bunch of unity from the programming for this. Big mistake; it just looked jumbled. Never change things without rehearsing first!
- We also told the dancers that they didn’t need to follow their phrases so closely and to just play around with. They did exactly what we told them to but, again, it looked to mushy. Again, never change things without rehearsing!
So, we learned some important lessons. Nevertheless, it was a good experience. Hannah will get to her part again in a few weeks and Molly will do a variation on hers (and another) a week after that. We’re learning!