Re: undemanding, unambitious, uninformed and uninspired

Andy Clarke (
Sun, 3 Oct 1999 18:42:46 +0100


<excerpt> I think that any analysis of the effect of previous
technological developments must be viewed within the appropriate
historical context. To say that technologies such as theatrical
lighting or the pointe shoe did not "change the formal dramatic
structure of the dance as a whole" is, I think, to underestimate their
effects based on present day experiences.


I stand by my original comments.

I don't deny that all of these inventions made changes, it is just that
I regard them as primarily affecting just content. A dance with a
pointe shoe still has one beginning, one middle and one end, just like
one without. Computers and sensors, on the other hand, allow for
interaction, which in turn allows for a branching dramatic structure,
and so the work need not have just one beginning, just one middle and
just one end. This seems to me a more significant change.

Of course, it all depends on how much use you make of this new
potential. Maybe we should just agree to differ on what to what we call
technology and what we regard as change - I think more interesting
discussion is emerging on branching structure and how to make this
structured interaction apparent.


<excerpt>If you try not to refer to whole categories of interactive
environments as "trivial", I will try not to refer to new technological
developments as "gimmicks."


This is a worthy first step. All we need to do now is get rid of the
other patronising terms that are used on this list with regard to


<excerpt>Concerning branching structures: they are definitely an
important avenue of investigation in the future of interactive
performance, but I wonder how much of the underlying structures will be
evident to audiences. How will we communicate enough information within
and without the work to inform audiences (ostensibly increasing their
appreciation of the work) without being pedantic?


When you create an interactive soundscape for a performer to improvise
in, how is its structure and its "interactiveness" apparent to the
audience? - it seems as though you think that it *is* apparent, as you
say that "improvisation with sensors is different than improvisation
without sensors" without any regard to the individual work, only its
form. Perhaps you could clarify this, rather than regarding one as
self-obvious and the other as still open to debate.

I acknowledge, however, that signalling the "interactiveness" of a
performance to its audience is problematic - it is something that
concerns me greatly about the whole field of dance and technology. It
is *very* important to me that the use of sensors and other technology
is not gratuitous or superfluous (from the audience's point of view).

I expect, however, that formal dramatic conventions will emerge to
signal "interactiveness" in a performance - it has happened in other
interactive media (such as computer games and the internet). I am
co-presenting a paper in November on the use of film language in
computer games, and one of the things that it will be exploring is how
computer games have established conventions to say "this bit is
interactive" and "this bit isn't" (or "your actions make a difference
here" and "here they don't"). Maybe equivalent dramatic conventions
will emerge in dance performance.

Or maybe what we call performance will change. It was interesting to
hear Thecla Schiphorst say at the recent ResCen/Shinkansen/Random Dance
workshop and symposium that one of the reasons that she was now working
on installations, rather than in dance, was that it was easier when the
spectator was also the interactor.

Of course, the extent to which the structure of an interactive work and
its "interactiveness" *needs* to be apparent is also still open to


<excerpt>Concerning the use of the term "virtual": I don't see it as
imprecise, depending on the context. If you are simply naming (or
describing) the "kind" of dancing figure, then "animated dancer" would
be more accurate. But if you are looking at the issue from the point of
view of critical analysis, then "virtual dancer" is quite useful.
Virtual is primarily defined as something that has a certain status in
all but name.


It seems as though we are touching here upon the debate that came up in
relation to "Brownian Motion" - and screen-based dance in general -
about what is a dancer and what isn't it. It is interesting, therefore,
to compare your comments on "virtual dancers" with those that you made
with regard to Brownian Motion (in your email "Re: New web dance", sent
to the list on 1st July 1999).

You said, in relation to Brownian Motion, that "'screen-dance',
wherever it falls on the documentation/creation spectrum, is not
'dance'". This seems to contradict the comments that you are making now
- that a virtual dancer is a dancer "in all but name".

You also said, in your latest message, that "I use the term virtual
dancer not only to refer to animated dancing figures, but for the
images of humans captured in space/time by film or video". This again
seems to contradict the comments that you made in the Brownian Motion
message, where you said that "I do not see any reason to assume that
either of these videos is 'dance.' The first is a video using dance
material; the second is a video of an animation using dance material."

There seems some inconsistency in your position regarding what is
dance, what is virtually dance and what isn't dance, and I don't think
that grouping everything under the umbrella term of virtual dancer is
helping your confusion.

I don't really have a problem with using virtual as an easy umbrella
term for screen-based dance, although I feel that feel that
"screen-based dance" and "animated dance" are better terms in that they
are less prone to the confusion that you seem to have about what is a
dancer and what isn't. They also don't impose limits on: (a) the type
of figure that is animated (I guess that virtual implies humanoid); (b)
how it is rendered, represented or animated (I guess that virtual
implies recognisable); and (c) the type of movement (if our "virtual
dancer" performs moves that are physically impossible due to physical
constraints such as gravity or the limits of joints, it is more virtual
or less virtual?).

But let's be honest here: "virtual dance" is not used within dance and
technology as an umbrella term for all forms of screen-based and
animated dance (except in cases such as the Virtual-Physical Bodies
symposium mentioned). In stead, it is used for its connotations of
computers, technology, and cyberspace in relation to individual works
or as some special category within animated dance (normally done on

The use of the term "virtual dancer" in this context is just hype.
Other extreme terms - used for the same connotations of techology and
"newness", and for their "hype-factor" - include "cyberdancer" and

Andy Clarke


Andy Clarke

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