THE SPACE BETWEEN US (2010)

Live electronics (MAX/MSP interacting with LilyPad Arduino eTextiles) and dancers (6’).  For Utam Moses.

The Space Between Us is a collaborative electronic music + modern dance piece for computationally enhanced dancers and MAX/MSP, a programming language for interactive music and multimedia. The dancers’ costumes are augmented a wearable microcomputer (LilyPad Arduino), a wireless transmitter, and various sensors that detect and transmit the movements of the dancers to a laptop, which then converts dance data to sound parameters. The e-textiles facilitate interactivity between dancers’ movements and the music that accompanies their dancing, transforming the power dynamic between composer and choreographer by putting the power of live musical improvisation in the hands (body) of dancers. This relationship extends an unprecedented power to dancers, who are most often constrained by the decisions made previously by a composer.

Like the development of a traditional instrument, designing a dance costume to facilitate musical improvisation required careful cross-disciplinary consideration of its functional components as well as its expressive capabilities; sensors had to track the most communicative motions of the dancers, the music controls had to be sensitive to the gestures onstage but conspicuous enough so as to ensure the audience knew what movements elicited which kinds of sounds, and the costumes had to withstand duress from stretching, heat, and perspiration.

Such considerations required the extensive disciplinary knowledge of each of the project stakeholders—including myself as well as Utam Moses (choreographer), Amy Burrell and Jay Garst (costume design and projections), and programmers from the Indiana University Creativity Labs (hardware/software design)—though all attributes of the work involved synergistic decisions made at the intersection of two or more domains.

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