Traditional Dances of the World and Technology


Traditional Dances of the World and Technology

In a even more towards technology orientated society, how can we combine the costumes and gestures of the ancients with computers and audiovisual devises without loosing our connection to the universe and our roots ? High tech and corporal memory ?

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Comment by Julie N. Cruse on February 1, 2009 at 10:49pm
I have been prototyping this online dance database for the past year now that does propose a solution to many of these issues. It does not involve using motion capture, unless its video based. It's housed under the vicki future link, but its password protected. This is because I came to this idea through my own blood sweat and tears, and want to make sure its protected and preserved until its ready to be released. I'd love to open it up to those partaking in this discussion, but would like to do so in a private discussion forum. Is this group visible to only members? If so, then I'll post the password here, but if not, then I'll ask that we move that discussion to another page, with a privacy lock on it.

Comment by Doug Fox on January 30, 2009 at 11:31am
Great food for thought!

Any thoughts on how we might move forward and build on these ideas?

For me, two paths come to mind:

1) Brainstorming about a global dance capture initiative:

Let's say we wanted to be very ambitious. How would we go about building a world-wide, open-source initiative to capture as many dance forms and styles as possible. The objective might be to use motion capture or other technology to record the movement of dancers and then store this data online in a publicly-accessible database.

2) Exploring Open-Source Animation Project

Once the underlying movement data was captured, how would we encourage choreographers, dancers, students, animators and others to edit and use this movement data? And building on what Michael wrote, right below, how can different animation approaches and techniques be used to create new forms of 3D dance choreography?

What are your thoughts on such an initiative?

Doug Fox
Great Dance
Comment by Julie N. Cruse on January 29, 2009 at 7:14am
No problem Lucia, I am building a page on The VICKI Project site that will have several versions of VICKI that go along with versions of Max beginning at 4.6. I'll be finishing this later on this week. I am excited to be reading of your work in historicizing. I am developing a similar project right now, pictured under "future" in The VICKI Project site. This aspect of the project hypothesizes a solution for the problems you - and others - have had in collecting the obscure, forgotten, or informal expressions of dance.
Maybe we should join forces!!

About DNA and dance preservation.... and gestures and movement. Identity seems to be the common subject of interest in both. Identity results from internal and external forces... both of which you describe here. Identity and story.
Comment by Doug Fox on January 28, 2009 at 6:57pm
Obataladance, sounds like very challenging dance preservation effort and also very worthwhile. Will you also be posting results online in addition to presenting research in Athens?

As follow-up to software discussion, Dance Forms is very limited. There are definitely ways to capture facial expressions, fingers and feet/toes - but may be cost prohibitive, unfortunately.

The National Geographic project I mentioned below is an excellent example of an inclusive scientific initiative. Their goal is to make sure that they don't leave any populations out of the study, especially isolated groups.
Comment by Doug Fox on January 28, 2009 at 6:21am
And getting back to initial question:

"How can we combine high tech and traditional dances without becoming a souless cyborg?"

My basic answer is through education, research, distribution and awareness.

In other words, putting aside financial realities for a moment, how could we create a global dance research project, along the lines of what Michael Girard suggested, that consisted of capturing dance styles and genres from around the world.

I see parallels between such a project and the Genographic Project from National Geographic. Population geneticist Spencer Wells has two excellent and accessible books about this world-wide effort to collect DNA from people around the globe: "The Journey of Man" and "Deep Ancestry."

One of Spencer's main points is that if population geneticists do not move quickly to capture DNA from as many people as possible from as many different ethnic backgrounds as possible (especially people who live in isolated communities), we will forever lose the possibility of understanding our (all peoples) historical family tree and migration patterns.

The same challenges may be facing the global dance community. How many traditional dance forms are lost every year through assimilation, migration patterns and loss of indigenous communities? Maybe others here know the answer. But I'll guess that the level of loss is pretty high and may be accelerating.

So, how can people interested in preserving, studying and sharing dance forms from around the world, go about capturing and recording these dance forms in systematic way before we run out of time?

And then how can we build educational tools and context to provide people of all ages with an understanding of the roots and cultures that shaped these dance forms?

I have some initial thoughts about answers to these questions that I'll share soon. I look forward to what others think about this topic.
Comment by Doug Fox on January 28, 2009 at 5:56am
Obataladance, regarding software and technology, there are two issues:

1) Motion capture technology/systems

First, the movement sequence of the dancers has to be captured. Motion capture is a fast, efficient way to do this - although motion capture systems tend to be price prohibitive for dancers. There are lower cost solutions such as those offered by OptiTrack. And there are other approaches, which I'm researching, that are much less expensive, but I don't know if they are really effective in capturing the subtleties of different dance forms around the world.

2) 3D Animation Software

Once you have captured and cleaned-up the movement sequences, the next step is use a 3D animation software program to create your animation. This process consists of building 3D models of dancers, adding textures, building your character rig (the model's skeleton and controls), applying and editing your motion-capture data to your model's geometry, adding lighting and cameras and rendering out your finished animation. Yes, many steps :(

Maya is high-end 3D animation software program with high learning curve. You may want to take a look at Maxon Cinema 4D, which I've heard good things about, but I have not used.
Comment by Julie N. Cruse on January 27, 2009 at 12:26pm
Thank you for this very interesting thread. so much to respond to. I'd love to share VICKI, after the research I am doing is fully launched. Right now I can only speak to the theories that inform its current implementation. The version that is currently circulating is the patch I used for a performance - email me for a copy at choreobot8@gmail.com

Obataladance, your questions about colonialism and technology align with my questions. Cultural construction is a phenomenon, to be experienced, as well as movement. If I can integrate and perform movement from another culture, I can also integrate and perform its, as you say, history and meaning. This is basic theater performance theory.

As Lacan would probably say, the authentic (sub)cultural impetus can never truly be touched and experienced. Like Heisenburg's uncertainty principle, the mere replication and re-integration of it from a foreign body is bound to change it.

The VICKI Project seeks to incorporate impetus by starting from the impulse and experience of the students in the room - something they "know." It is a subject-centered model in which the students co-create the class material with their shared experiential knowledge and continual learning. This is an attempt to infuse dance techniques with post-web2.0 emergent structures, and to offset the consumerism of dominant aesthetic values, which, postpostmodern as we may be, still exist very evidently in the circuity of the professional performance world.

This is not to say that we should never attempt to embody "other" movement - I firmly believe in the value of sharing and translating of (sub)cultural dance. That is a counterpart of VICKI's Technique 2.0 model - coexistence, permeability and integration.

VICKI is simply saying, we can value our own individual experiences and creativity, as our individually lived tradition, as an impetus for training. Again, not that anything else is wrong, its just another way... an experiment. I cannot say how commercially valuable that is - that's a sister problem.

And as for technology, I am a Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance kinda gal.
Comment by Doug Fox on January 27, 2009 at 8:01am
Julie, could you elaborate on what "models" you're referring to? Sorry, I lost you a bit. Also, is your software available for download?

Michael, I look forward to your thoughts here or on another group. IMHO, I think they are relevant to this discussion and this group.

Obataladance, on your thoughts about traveling to different countries to see dance in original setting: That's why I always liked learning about work and study of Katherine Dunham. I wrote multimedia guide to her dance and anthropology investigations in 2007. But I'm having trouble accessing her videos on the Library of Congress website.

And I never had much luck figuring out Credo Interactive. I've mostly studied Maya.
Comment by Julie N. Cruse on January 26, 2009 at 11:23pm
Good question. Interesting, the role of technology in colonialism. I'm working on reformatting VICKI to teach technique... in efforts to shift the models that we use to "prepare" dancers for the "professional world." It's my opinion that the existing model revolves around dominant aesthetics and values, and strips away the impetus behind cultural forms it incorporates (eclectic contemporary dance), asking dancers to enter into removed cultural dance practices (appropriate) from an unrelated cultural experience. Not that its wrong, this exploration is legit and has value... but its under-analyzed, and relatively unconscious. I'm hoping to use VICKI to start from the "(sub)cultural individual impetus" (my thesis) and derive the form, and in this case, its a coined dance technique 2.0 - co-created and constantly shifting. More will be released on this in the Fall...
Comment by Doug Fox on January 26, 2009 at 6:52am
Obataladance: excellent question - how do we combine traditional dances and tech.

Michael: I'm very interested in your idea of creating building blocks of underlying structures of different dance styles and genres.

I'm very interested in exploring mocap, 3D apps, procedural animation, AI and other approaches. And, then, exploring connections, relationships and evolution of these different traditional dance forms.

There are many directions such a project could take including working with 3D animation software such as Maya and others. I'd like to see how new animation layering tools could be used in Maya for this investigation.

I just tweeted about research into combining mocap data and human simulation.

Here's a 2003 TED talk from founder Natural Motion.

I also think research from Seoul National University in their Movement Research Lab very intriguing.

Also, many developments in AI for games that's very relevant.

I look forward to exploring this topic in greater depth.

Doug Fox
Great Dance

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