"Rumpus Room for Dancers" is an artwork and research project developed during a Creative Residency Fellowship at the B2 Center for Media, Arts, and Performance, at the ATLAS Institute, University of Colorado, Boulder. During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was not possible to develop a performance for a live audience. In response, I focused on creating an environment that I hoped would be a joyful, playful, engaging, and sensual experience for dancers. Using 3d motion capture technology, "Rumpus Room for Dancers" creates an environment where the movement of a dancer triggers sound and lighting cues. This video documents three different dancers' initial interaction and improvisation with the system. They are rick h m, Anna Pillot, and Kat Lott. I am indebted to their willingness to come and play with real vulnerability.
"Rumpus Room for Dancers" began with a simple interest in reversing the causality between dance and music. The project embraces a constraint-based approach that has an eye toward choreography generation. In this instantiation, the motion capture system is used in conjunction with a Max/MSP patch that defines a 3x3 grid of virtual "pillars." Each pillar is divided into three sections, providing 27 unique locations in space that can be used to trigger a sound sample with dynamic interaction. These pillars are separated in space (see above) such that only a deliberate action to intersect a specific trigger point generates sound. In addition, each 3d tracking marker that is placed on the body can be associated with its own unique bank of 27 sound samples. This design encourages the development of rough choreographic tasks through the combination of the placement of the tracking markers on the body, in this case, the wrists and ankles, and how the sound samples are spatially organized. To play a certain melody requires moving the tracking markers through specific points in space in a specific sequence over time.
During the "Rumpus Room for Dancers" project I had the opportunity to work with seven different dancers from the CU Dance department. They were: Meg Madorin, Kat Lott, rick h m, Anna Pillot, Caroline Butcher, Christy Mitchell, and Brittany Banei. Their generous collaboration was very important for the success of the project. For each interaction with the system, I gave the dancer a very brief introduction about how the system worked and then had them improvise on it for up to thirty minutes. We would then take a break and discuss the nature of their experience with the system and brainstorm about potential ways to improve it. These interactions and conversations provided a fruitful environment for continuing to explore the potential of this project and served to build relationships for future collaborations.
I am interested in taking what I have learned from "Rumpus Room for Dancers" to create a dance-driven multimedia ballet, where movement triggers sound, lighting, and video. The format will provide an interesting playground for experimenting with how the agency of movement can conduct a larger audio-visual experience while exploring the dancer's function as a "reflexive chorus." The idea of a reflexive chorus is similar to that of a traditional Greek chorus, they propel and critique the narrative, in this case literally through their movement. This dynamic also allows for a lot of potential interaction between the audio-visual components of the narrative and the dancers. A certain dancer could propel the audio-visual narrative of a certain character, or even interact with these multimedia components in a myriad of self-reflexive ways.
I am currently working on developing the musical and video score of an adaptation of a short story of mine called "Fat Lab" that reconfigures the story through the perception of the animals in the story.
A short technical/conceptual brief of an early incarnation of the system is available HERE.
Below is a video of myself playing a more specific sequence with the 'Rumpus Room for Dancers" setup and an earlier video demonstrating the origins of the project.