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Movement and Technology Converge in U of U Project, Allowing Live Dancing in Cyberspace

February 23, 2004 — Imagine watching a live modern dance performance by artists who touch hands and move in concert-in virtual space, across state lines and across time zones. A two- to three-second time delay-like news interviews from abroad-and the technologies’ digitization gives the art an “other world” effect.

Ultimately, the Real-Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP) dance, projected onto a large reflective screen, becomes a live/virtual/multi-media piece in which artistic elements-rhythm and the fluidity of movement-merge with more technical components: lights, scrims, computers, cameras, audio equipment and video and sound mixers.

This Wednesday, Feb. 25, from 1 until 5 p.m., faculty from the University of Utah, Brigham Young and Utah State Universities, will learn about such performances that are, albeit in the early, exploratory stages, taking place between student dancers at the University of Utah, Arizona State University and Ohio State University. The event will be held in the New Media Wing of the Art and Architecture Building (formerly the Museum of Fine Arts), located at 370 S. 1530 E, on the University of Utah campus. While not open to the general public, media are invited to the information session.

The event is sponsored by the U’s College of Fine Arts in collaboration with the national office of Internet2, a consortium being led by 205 universities working in partnership with industry and government to develop and deploy advanced network applications.

The U of U project is the brainchild of Ellen Bromberg, assistant dean for research in the University’s College of Fine Arts and an assistant professor in the Department of Modern Dance. Wednesday’s discussions will explain the many opportunities to leverage creative, research and educational potential of the high-speed network that, much like its predecessor, the World Wide Web, is only available on university campuses.

Although Internet2 has been exploited by medical and scientific researchers for teleconferencing over the past five years, Phyllis Haskell, dean of the University’s College of Fine Arts, explains: “Our hope is to stimulate interest in using this technology for other kinds of research and collaborative activities in the arts and humanities.” Bromberg’s research project is one of the first telematic systems of its kind used for the arts in Utah, and is part of the U’s Modern Dance Department, a program that consistently ranks as one of the best in the country. The U’s Department of Modern Dance, the Center for High Performance Computing (CHPC) and the College of Fine Arts are founding members of the Association for Dance and Performance Telematics (ADAPT), which began in 2000 as an interdisciplinary collaboration between artists, technologists and scholars from five universities.

“The arts have traditionally dealt with other kinds of instruments, like film, paint, musical instruments and the human body as a moving element. This experimentation is heavy on technology so it was an expensive proposition. This is the first time that the College of Fine Arts has had a reason to apply to the U’s Research Instrumentation Fund,” explains Bromberg, who received $67,000 from the fund.

“The technology allows us to give the perception that the dancers are in the same space. Their images can be projected behind one another or in the foreground. The dancers watch the projected images and have to measure time delays and image reversals,” Bromberg says. “It’s a tremendous challenge for their visual, temporal and spatial perceptions.”

Yet movement is patterned in such a way so as not to nullify the interactive aspect of the technology, Bromberg explains. “The whole point of it is to set up structures that are somewhat improvisational-so the moment is alive. What’s exciting to me is that it’s live and the performers can make choices and respond to each other. There is some predictability so that when it’s completed it allows for meaning to be communicated as well as improvisational choice making.”

Each participating location has its own performance, but audiences may choose from a variety of other viewing options. They may choose to watch the dancer on the screen in front of them, view all of the sites simultaneously, or perhaps change the experience into an interactive online event by watching at home on their computers and changing the placement of the dancers on the computer screen.

“There are parts of this that, for me, feel like early television,” Bromberg says. “In the early days of live TV people were just playing around with possibilities. It was very rough and very exciting. In our collaborations we are exploring new ways of communicating through visual images.”

Also on hand Wednesday will be guest speaker Ann Doyle, Internet2 manager for the Arts and Humanities Initiative of the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development (UCAID). She will discuss how other universities are utilizing the technology for research and artistic activities. Doyle assists campuses in producing master classes and performance events enabled by high-speed networking.

Wednesday’s information session schedule is as follows:

1-1:15 p.m.-Welcome and introductions, Phyllis Haskel, dean, College of Fine Arts,
University of Utah

1:15-1:30 p.m.-Virtual Tour of the Access Grid, Jimmy Miklavcic, CHPC,
University of Utah

1:30-2 p.m.-Advanced Networking at Utah, Julio Facelli, CHPC

2-3 p.m.-Internet2 and the Arts and Humanities, Ann Doyle, UCAID

3-3:30 p.m.-Break

3:30-4 p.m.-ADAPT Collaboration, Ellen Bromberg, College of Fine Arts

4-4:30 p.m.-Utah Sponsored Education Group Participant (SEGP), Dennis Sampson,
Utah Educational Network

4:30-5 p.m.-Questions and wrap up

For more information, call 801-581-6764.