Re: ballet in cyberspace

Thu, 22 May 1997 08:26:01 +1000

Susie Crow wrote:
> I would like to know if there are other kinds of software for creating dance
movement which perhaps are more abstracted and less tied to an anatomical
> image of the human body. Ballet is a technique of opposites and extremes
> and apparent paradoxes; it can transcend the human body to express perfect
> abstractions, or equally use abstracted movement to express emotion and
> human drama. The great danger at the moment is becoming obsessed with the
> physical and anatomical appearance of the technique rather than the
> essential qualities of the movement.

You objection to Lifeformes is that one has to define key frames and I suppose
that dancers are likely to use positions for key frames if the latter are
points in time and space which have some sort of structural significance.
Is this not how one delimits so-called "movement phrases" and differentiates
them from others?

The anatomical image is not confined to computer software; Labanotation takes
a similarly "structuralist" view. (No doubt a few of you will have seen
Scott Sutherland's Labanwriter, BTW.) Finding the "essential qualities"
of movement is probably more difficult if one considers them to lie outside the
space/time domain. Laban's effort schema is one approach and probably the
most rigorous. Leslie Bishko at Simon Fraser University was researching
the use of effort elements in computer animation; last time I heard from
her, she was having some difficulty translating Flow to animation parameters.
I tried e-mailing her recently but my message bounced; perhaps someone
closer to Vancouver could comment on the progress of this research (Lisa
Naugle, perhaps?).

When I met Scott Sutherland in late 1995, we discussed the use of motion
capture with software like Labanwriter and Lifeforms. To my knowledge,
nothing like this has been attempted. Lifeforms linking with animation
packages might help us better compose dances or dance videos, but there
is little on the capture side other than Sally Jane Norman's experiments
(again seemingly aimed at arriving at an animation) or musicians using
a variety of motion capture devices for gestural input (e.g. Axel Mulder,
George Logemann, Cyberbeat Brothers; systems like Very Nervous System,
Em trackers and BodySynth).

(Sorry, typo: Em should read EM; that is, electromagnetic trackers like
the Polhemus and Ascension products.)

Thoughts, anyone?

Regards, David