Contemporary Dance

Telematic Dance: Choreography and Technology

The Ensemble project has been working with teachers and students of Contemporary Dance at Liverpool John Moores University, who were already involved in the development of ‘telematic dance’ performances. Video links between performers at different sites changes the experience of performers and audiences as well as providing an additional ‘virtual space’: a large split screen on which dancers from the different sites appear together.

This video presents the work of the Telematic Dance Project in 2009-2010 and includes parts of a performance as well as student reflections on the experience and new challenges of performing in this way. The project is also reported in: Brooks. P. and Kahlich, L., (2009) Reflections on a two-year joint international project using web-cam technology to create new opportunities for student choreographic collaborations, Innovations In Practice, 2(1), pp 41-48 (Online here).

This research setting was particularly interesting for the Ensemble researchers and developers because it was already well advanced in the use of specific technologies – not only video, but a range of ‘Web 2.0′ technologies which the teachers and performers used to communicate during and between performances.

What is the Nature, Scope and Role of Cases in this Setting?

In our early work in the Contemporary Dance setting, the primary focus was on the performance as ‘the case’, with the progressive development of the case a complex process of practices and discourses into which technological elements were woven. Technologies were already significant actors in this process: not neutral parts of an infrastructure, but things with which teachers and performers experimented and with which they developed new techniques and effects.

As we worked with the teachers and performers, however, we also became aware of another perspective on cases: namely, that, in the course of the highly reflective learning that was a hallmark of the setting, students were being asked to construct a different kind of case. These were reflective accounts (verbal, written or multimedia) into which they incorporated evidence from their performances: images, video clips, diary entries and other texts. These cases were not bounded by any particular performance: students traced trajectories in their own development, or of a group, or in the emergence of a performance.

What are the pedagogical advantages and opportunities of using semantic technologies?

The flexibility of semantic web technologies has allowed the Ensemble project to develop, through a series of participatory design activities as well as through close working with teachers and students, a set of web applications to support these processes. We have been able to support the requirement to store, retrieve and annotate diverse content – principally video and images.

The particular benefits of using semantic technologies include:

  • consistent metadata allows content to be stored and retrieved from a digital repository through web interfaces
  • faceted browsing allows searching of collections, and as in the first demonstration below, exploration of the relationship between formal ontologies and informal, user-generated vocabularies
  • the semantic ‘mark-up’ of video content, linking it to parts of performances, other resources and terms
  • annotation of content (including video) makes it possible for students to assemble their own collections and supports the ‘case building’ described above

What new tools have been developed and how?

Paper Prototyping Semantic Web Apps

The tools that have been developed have arisen from a sequence of participatory design and development activities.These have included paper-prototyping activities (pictured) in which students drew both on their experience of the telematic dance project and of existing web technologies including social software, collaborative bookmarking and tagging, and video editing applications.

One particularly novel approach is the very rapid development of working prototypes which have then been brought back into design sessions. Students have become used to working alongside researchers and software developers and have contributed directly to the development of new web applications.

Continuing Developments

The Dance Reflection Environment – an illustrated narrative

The annotation tools developed by the project have now been further developed into a more extensive online environment in which teachers and students can manage video and other resources, annotate and discuss their work, and construct reflective narratives and portfolios.

Students are able to identify key points in their learning, to review progress and to share accounts and ‘packages’ of multimedia content via other social media such as Google+, Facebook or Twitter, as well as embedding a ‘playable’ interactive component in a personal web page or blog.

This environment and the approaches that underpin it have been recognised as having many applications in different settings beyond the performing arts.  It is currently being developed further by the Ensemble@LJMU project team.

Find Out More

About the Telematic Dance Project:

About Ensemble’s work with the LJMU-Temple Telematic Dance Project:

About the Annotation and Reflection Tools more generally: