Dancing Onscreen, Online and Onwards: Digital Technologies at Ohio State

For many decades the department has invested in new technologies to interrogate and advance the art form. Lucy Venable worked with IBM to design a Labanotation typewriter, Vera Maletic forged coursework in dance video work and movement analysis aided by technology, and teams of faculty and staff developed early CD ROM technologies for aligning video and Labanotation scores. Johannes Birringer developed dance and technology course work and research working with Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD), and for the past 12 years Norah Zuniga Shaw has advanced dance and technology with her shared position at ACCAD. Today, dancing on screen and online is showing up substantially in five of our faculty’s profiles.

Norah Zuniga Shaw and TWO

In November 2013, Zuniga Shaw and Maria Palazzi launched their most recent project, TWO at the Frankfurt Lab. Commissioned by the Forsythe Company for Motion Bank, TWO focuses on the mind/body practices of two unrelated directors of performance improvisation: Ohio State’s Bebe Miller and Brussels-based Thomas Hauert/ZOO Company. Published online TWO focuses on mind/body processes in Miller and Hauert’s choreographic practices—namely memory, habit, attention and impulse. In these artist-initiated projects, the archive is constructed as generative and the makers of the work are considering what else is available to be traced and transmitted. The moment of human and computer intervention in fixing and re-articulating performance involves not only scholars, practitioners, librarians and archivists but also designers, scientists, curators and users and results in producing knowledge objects such as traces, scores, inscriptions, articulations.

Harmony Bench and Mapping Touring

Mapping Touring combines archival research in concert dance history with tools and approaches drawn from the digital humanities. It is a digital research project that uses concert dance programs held in library special collections to document and track the appearances of dancers, choreographers and dance companies as they tour domestically and internationally. Of particular concern is representing the dates of performance, cities and venues, and repertory performed. Bench said, “I think coming to terms with dancers on the move will demand that we grapple more concertedly with globalization in the early 20th century as it manifests in economies of movement — economies in which ‘kinesthetic legacies’ are simultaneously obscured and revealed.”

Bebe Miller and Dance Fort

Developed in tandem with the performance work A History (2012), Dance Fort: A History is a digital play-book, part installation and part digital artifact. It is based on the matrix of materials surrounding the development, production and performance of A History, containing cross-referenced research materials danced, written, spoken and shared in other forms. Dance works are made of a mix of ideas, physical practice, happenstance, forgetting, remembering, minor epiphanies and daily discoveries, joined together piece by piece, over time. One of the goals of both the dance performance and the digital book is to learn and understand the archive of work that lives within a dancer’s memory and body. This digital book serves as a companion piece, another way of viewing form and context. It is not meant to represent the performance but to create an interactive experience with its bones and subtext, mapping the viewer’s trace through the artists’ process.

The Department and Online

There are numerous ways faculty and students are showing up online as artists, scholars and learners. Harmony Bench is co-editor of The International Journal of Screendance, an artist-led journal exploring the field of screendance. It is the first scholarly journal dedicated to this growing area of worldwide interdisciplinary practice. Also, the department is preparing to offer its first completely online general education course “Dance in Popular Cultures” in autumn 2015. Bench is also developing a new course where students will interface with technologies while asking “how do we do history digitally?” The course, “Spectacles of agency and desire: digital dance histories and the burlesque stage,” is built around the Charles H. McCaghy Collection of Exotic Dance and examines the politics of women’s bodies on the popular stage in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Digital literacy runs across the curriculum and all students develop their own electronic portfolios.

Hannah Kosstrin and KineScribe

KineScribe is an iPad app that displays and edits scores in Laban movement notation. In it, users can read and create scores in structured Labanotation, Motif and Language of Dance. KineScribe reimagines LabanWriter for the touch screen, allowing users to write dances in Laban movement notation and quickly edit scores and symbols. Hannah Kosstrin and LabanWriter programmer David Ralley developed KineScribe with the support of Marty Ringle and Trina Marmarelli at Reed College, the cooperation of Ohio State and a National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities Level I Startup Grant. At Ohio State, Kosstrin plans to further develop the app as a teaching and research tool for investigations in movement description, analysis and observation. KineScribe is available as a free download on the Apple App Store.

Mitchell Rose and Dance Film

Mitchell Rose continues to advance dance film-making in the department and he is working on two new films. Targeted Advertising was shot two years ago by a professional aerial photography company and involved 80 dancers from five central Ohio dance departments. It featured the choreography of new dance Chair Susan Hadley. Additionally, Exquisite Corps is a two year project that is creating a chain letter of 40 well known choreographers each dancing for seven seconds. Rose’s film Globe Trot, shot by 54 filmmakers in 23 countries and made in collaboration with Bebe Miller, is winding up its rounds on the festival circuit having garnered 11 awards. It will soon be seen as inflight entertainment on international flights. Rose continues to curate the department’s festival of dancefilm, DANCE@30FPS. Bringing together the finest dancefilms from around the world, it was presented this year at the Wexner Center for the Arts.