Monday, 10 December 2012


A few months ago I spent a night in rapt appreciation, learning about dance notation. It is one of the most beautiful mind-stretches I have ever come across.

More recently, a friend shared a link to Tom Armitage's 'Spirits Melted Into Air' project for the Royal Shakespeare Company, which took speeches or scenes from two productions and recorded the paths of actors as they moved around the stage, then visualised these paths through a poster and a laser-cut object. (You can read about the whole process here.)

Spirits Melted Into Air from Tom Armitage on Vimeo.

So I started thinking, casting backwards to that glorious notation for choreography, what about ballet treated in this way? What if I could see the pas de deux from Swan Lake in this way - the traced path of two bodies through space? What if I could then overlay that against the pas de deux from La Sylphide, from the Sleeping Beauty, from the Nutcracker?

What if I could overlay performances of the same work by different dancers? Or show the revisions of the dances over time? If I could see the history of a dance, such as is detailed in this description of the Le corsaire pas de deux from Wikipedia:
Originally presented as a Pas d'action à trois with choreography by Samuil Andrianov in 1915 for a new production at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre of Marius Petipa's 1899 revival of Le Corsaire. First danced by Samuil Andrianov as Conrad, Tamara Karsavina as Medora, and Mikhail Obukhovas the suitor. Today the Le Corsaire Pas de deux is presented in versions derived from the revisions of Agrippina Vaganova (1931) and Vakhtang Chabukiani (circa 1940), among many others. Music by Riccardo Drigo (opening Adage); male variation by Yuli Gerber; female variation by Baron Boris Fitinhof-Schell; and coda by Drigo. Often other variations are utilized for the female by the composers Anton Simon (in Rudolf Nureyev's 1960 version), and Cesare Pugni.
My mind darted off to thinking about bodies traced through space with points of light, layering over and diverging from each other, rather than flattened paths. At that point, I opened a link on Twitter and an email from a friend within about five minutes of each other, both pointing to this rather extraordinary piece of projection work

All this has made me think that I really want to visit a museum of dance (a brand new desire for me). Visualisation is a term that's used so promiscuously  but I see such potential in the near future for us to bring it into our galleries and museums in really meaningful ways.

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