Choreographing the Data: performing the ARTeFACT project TAKE 2

  1. 1. Susan L. Wiesner

    University of North Carolina, Greensboro

  2. 2. Jama S. Coartney

    University of Virginia

  3. 3. Rommie L. Stalnaker

    Gainesville Ballet Company

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Argument Although one might question the value of collecting
and preserving artefacts for all elements surrounding
a dance, the preservation of dance as a digitised
performance text can become a basis for research that
address the issues of describing and analyzing the performance
event, while it also enables creativity which in
turn further supports research.
At DH 2008 Susan L. Wiesner and Jama Coartney presented
their work on the ARTeFACT project, and posited
the previous argument, which resulted in a suggestion
(challenge?) to create a work based on the data. As ARTeFACT
is a multi-layered, iterative, project involving
the contributions of many, the suggested choreography
had already been planned as a project step. It is the
continued work on this project in both the capture and
preservation of movement-driven data (generated from
one dance work) and subsequent choreography based on
that data that is the focus of this suggested panel/performance.
As noted in 2008, the ARTeFACT Project Alpha included
teams of students asked to design and build an orthotic
device that, when worn, causes the wearer to emulate
the challenges of walking with a physical disability. In
lieu of a final exam, the students produced a performance
during which members of each group wore their devices
and moved through the space according to ‘choreography’
set by their peers. Two cameras preserved the performance
Inspired by the concept of the devices, a choreographer
used the collection of artefacts from the engineering
students’ course-work to develop a dance work, For
Natalie, which became ARTeFACT Project Beta. In addition
to her study of the digital artefacts generated by
the engineering class students, the choreographer used
the devices themselves (actually wearing them to choreograph).
This forced her to work within the limitations
of the devices, inhibiting her level of abstraction, thus
causing her to choose movement similar to those of the
students, especially in the case of the Ricketts device.
Using Rudolph Laban’s Effort/Shapei concepts, she also
analysed her choreography to create a more cohesive
movement vocabulary. Her work was preserved through
still photographs, two static and mobile video cameras,
and motion capture devices (wiimotes). These wiimotes
were placed on the dancers’ bodies, and data signals
were captured using an interactive authoring program,
Max MSP/Jitter. The resultant data, 57,326 samples with
229,304 descriptive elements, was exported as plain text
and can be viewed in a custom playback engine or any
application that reads plain text files. From the data, a third work, For Always, is being choreographed
(completion date December 2008) using
Laban’s Eukinetics (Effort/Shape) theories. The same
preservation techniques will be used against this work in
order to find the traces between movement (through established
methods of movement analysis such as Laban
and Adshead’s qualitative approaches) and quantitative
analysis of the data samples including the relative placement
of the capture devices.
The panel/performance proposed herein considers the
processes of iterative choreography and the inclusion of
digital technologies into the choreographic process, the
performance event, and the preservation of both. It will
also discuss the possibilities generated by technologies
themselves (towards methods of controlled vocabularies
based on movement and/or automated, feature-based
tagging). The discussion will culminate in a multi-media
dance performance, and an ‘after-performance’ workshop
and Q/A. Thus it is requested that the panel/performance
be scheduled for at least 90-minute slot. The panel
includes: Jama Coartney, Head of the Digital Media
Lab at UVA (originator of the project, who will speak to
the technologies and data comparisons); Rommie Stalnaker,
Project Beta choreographer (to present her choreographic
processes and movement analysis), and Susan
L. Wiesner, Project Gamma choreographer (to offer
a theoretical analysis of the traces and her choreographic
Sample Bibliography
Adshead-Lansdale, J. (ed.) 1999, Dancing Texts: intertextuality
and interpretation. London: Dance Books.
Dell, Cecily 1977, A Primer for Movement Description:
Using Effort-Shape and Supplementary Concepts. New
York: Dance Notation Bureau Press.
Goellner, E. W. & Murphy, J. S. 1995, Bodies of the Text.
New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Kholief, M., Maly, K. & Shen, S. 2003, ‘Event-Based
Retrieval from a Digital Library containing Medical
Streams’ in Proceedings of the 2003 Joint Conference
on Digital Libraries (Online) Available at
Naugle, L. 2001,‘Reinterpreting Choreography: Motion
Capture Data as Historical Information’ in Society of
Dance History Scholars Proceedings 2001 24th Conference,
Birmingham: SDHS.
New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Jerome
Robbins Dance Division 2005, Report from Working
Group 4 Dance Documentation Needs Analysis
Meeting 2.
iEffort is “how the body concentrates its exertion” (Dell
1977, 10). The elements of Effort are: “direct and indirect,
light and strong, quick and sustained, free and
bound” (Ibid.). Shape is “how the body forms itself in
space” (Dell 1977, 42). Its elements are: “spreading and
enclosing, rising and sinking, growing and shrinking, advancing
and retreating”, as well as movement that goes
“sideward out and sideward across, upward and downward,
growing and shrinking, forward and backward”.
Laban’s explanation of Shape not only describes movements
within the body (the personal Kinesphere), but
can also be used to describe movement that traverses the
stage space (pathways).

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Conference Info


ADHO - 2009

Hosted at University of Maryland, College Park

College Park, Maryland, United States

June 20, 2009 - June 25, 2009

176 works by 303 authors indexed

Series: ADHO (4)

Organizers: ADHO

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None