Dance && Code is a series of projects designed to integrate creative coding into modern dance. Because most people are familiar with either one side of this equation or the other – but not both – a few words of explanation are in order.
First, these projects focus on modern dance or what might be called twentieth-century concert dance. (Here’s what Wikipedia says, but also see the entries on contemporary dance and contemporary ballet, which are related.) There is inherent risk – and inevitable futility – in trying to define any art form, so it may be most productive to simply give examples, such as this collection of videos from YouTube:
Next, creative coding refers, essentially, to creative or artistic work done via computer programming. This is not to be confused with the creative work that people do when they use computer programs like Photoshop or Final Cut Pro. Instead, it refers in part to creativity in the creation of the programs or tools. Here’s a short PBS clip that introduces the concept:
And a note about the double-ampersand or “&&.” In math this is known as the “logical conjunction” but in computer programming it is known as the “logical AND” or the “AND gate.” It’s how programmers say “both of these things must be true at the same time.” That is exactly the goal with the Dance && Code projects: The dance and the code go hand in hand, each supporting but not supplanting the other.
Dance && Code was inspired primarily by an artist working outside of dance: cellist Zoë Keating. She uses electronics to create loops and layers of her music while playing live, making the sound much richer than possible as a solo cellist. At the same time, the technology is essentially invisible: unless you’re intentionally looking for the foot controllers and laptop, you don’t notice them; you just hear the music. It’s seamless. You can see her in action below:
(By the way, Zoë Keating is far from the only musician to do live looping, as it is called. Some personal favorites include cellists Julia Kent and Hildur Guðnadóttir, bassist Steve Lawson, saxophonist Håkon Kornstad, and vocalist Georgina Brett. But it was through Zoë that we first learned about live looping and came to love it.)
The simple but ambitious goal of the first Dance && Code project – Dance Loops – has been to do a similar thing for live modern dance. It turns out to be technically complicated and needs a suspension of disbelief on the part of the viewer, as the projections are clearly not real dancers. However, the work has been rewarding and will, no doubt, lead to further development.
The technical work for Dance && Code has been done primarily in a few programs:
- Max/MSP/Jitter by Cycling ’74: These are three integrated programs for working with audio and video. The programming is done through virtual “patching,” or connecting functions with cords that transfer data. This process is also known as “dataflow programming.”
- Ableton Live, which is an audio program or “digital audio workstation” that is often used by producers of electronic dance music (among others). It allows performers to launch clips of music or video, mix or modify them, and create live performances. And it’s a lot of fun.
- Max for Live is a separate program that integrates Max/MSP/Jitter and Ableton Live.
- Processing is a free, Java-based, programming language that is used widely for both creative coding and for data visualization.
And a quick word of thanks to our sponsors: Dance Loops and Dance && Code have been supported by:
- A Utah Valley University Presidential Fellowship for Faculty Scholarship that was awarded to Barton Poulson and Nichole Ortega for the 2012-2014 academic years
- A travel grant from the UVU Office of Engaged Learning to present at both the Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research (UCUR) and the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) in spring of 2014
- Additional travel and material support from the UVU Department of Dance and the UVU Behavioral Science Department
Thank you for your support!