Hannah Braegger McKeachnie, Utah Valley University
Dance Loops is a performance that does with dance what live looping has done for music: It allows performers to augment their own live performance with material that is recorded, manipulated, and played back on the spot.
In Dance Loops, three undergraduate dance students participate in a 10-minute semi-structured improvisation that includes a trio introduction, three solo sections, and a trio conclusion. Each section is recorded by Microsoft Kinect cameras, which capture RGB video and 3D motion data. The performers trigger recordings with an onstage controller, which allows them to select the duration of their recording, the form of manipulation, and the form of projected playback, as well as providing control of some parameters of the audio accompaniment. The video and motion data are processed with Max/MSP/Jitter, a dataflow programming language, and the audio is processed with Ableton Live and Max for Live. When the dance sequence has been recorded, it begins to play back immediately on either or both of two projectors. The dancer can then either repeat the process with an additional recording or perform with their “virtual partners.” The dancer is also able to manipulate the video and audio playback in real time via gestural controls – that is, specific body movements – that are read by the Kinect.
Conclusions and Significance
Dance Loops is a novel application of a new technology to dance. While live looping is becoming more common in music, it is essentially unexplored within dance. The hardware and software used in this performance give the performers a level of control – both programmed and improvised – that is nearly impossible with other methods. In addition, by making it possible for a single artist to perform the works of an entire ensemble, these methods provide greater freedom for artistic creation and expression.