4 Tech Tools That Could Transform the Dance World
It’s 2017, and by now we’ve seen a digital revolution in most art forms: our paperbacks are pixilated; we download songs by the dozen; TV shows come in streaming segments of binge-watching awesomeness. But until very recently, dance has remained a kind of analog anomaly.
Today, however, digital cameras the size of an acorn fit inside a ballerina’s jeweled tiara, while specially-crafted lenses capture the tiniest of gestures; computerized pointe shoes record footsteps as data that can be shown on a computer and later used to customize movement; flying drones hover above the stage, capturing a pas de deux sequence from mid-air.
From a research project done by The Forsythe Company and Ohio State University using a Motion Bank prototype
On a practical level, these tools enable choreographers and dancers to polish steps, make better use of rehearsal time, share work remotely, reduce injury and preserve repertoire—but there are drawbacks, too.
Digitized Dance Notation
Digital choreography programs like Dance Designer allow choreographers to choose and connect pre-recorded stock movements. Or, you can create your own unique 3D steps with The Motion Bank, a data collection company that uses Microsoft Kinect and motion tracking technology to record dancers’ movements and generate an archived “movement library.”
The premiere of Dutch National Ballet's Night Fall, a virtual reality ballet. Photo by Michel Schnater.
But, these programs often only show how a step is done, not how to do it well. (One benefit of old school Labanotation is its symbols for movement quality.) And as with all dance notation systems, digital software is sometimes unable to accurately define dynamics and phrasing.
A New Kind of Camera
GoPros and drones can film hard-to-reach angles—and can create virtual reality experiences using 360-degree video technology. But though companies are hoping that access to high-quality dance footage will make audiences more excited about seeing live performances, it could have the opposite effect, making them content to stay home and watch from their computers.
Footwear That Captures Your Every Step
What if a ballerina’s slippers could help capture her very movements? Motion-tracking “E-Traces” are slippers that feature a small electronic device attached to the bottom of a dancer’s shoe. The chip records a foot’s pressure and movement, allowing the dancer to effectively “draw” their movements in a pattern of data strokes that are then sent to a mobile app program for editing. Dancers can then use the app to interpret their movement, compare rehearsals and performances and make corrections. The only downside: The E-trace is visible against a pink shoe, which makes it obvious during performances.
The Ultimate FitBit
Another wearable helps prevent injury: Kitman Labs has devised the Athlete Optimization System, which tracks stats during and after workouts. It collects data on acceleration and deceleration, physiological factors (stress, mood, sleep), biomechanical response, muscle fatigue and methods of recovery so that dancers can monitor their regimen.
If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.
You ever just wish that Kenneth MacMillan's iconic production of Romeo and Juliet could have a beautiful love child with the 1968 film starring Olivia Hussey? (No, not Baz Luhrmann's version. We are purists here.)
Wish granted: Today, the trailer for a new film called Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words was released, featuring MacMillan's choreography and with what looks like all the cinematic glamour we could ever dream of: