[ISEA2008] Paper: Helen Bailey, Simon Buckingham-Shum, Sita Popat & Martin Turner – e-Dance: Relocating Choreographic Practice as a New Modality for Performance and Documentation


This paper identifies new practices and possibilities at the intersection of Dance and e-Science. It is particularly concerned with the complexity of the concept of  ‘location’ in relation to internet enabled performance practices. Julia Glesner provides a useful analysis of spatio-temporal relationships in internet performance: “telematic and distributed performances dissolve the spatial (but not the temporal) unity between performers and spectators and distribute the scenic space into diverse remote sites”. This paper considers the ways in which the e-Dance project is formulating a new mode of choreographic practice that engages with this dislocation in the co-dependent interrelationship of space and time. This new modality is distinct from existing on-line compositional practices such as ‘hyperchoreography’ and ‘hyperdance’ and as a result of recent advances in Access Grid and Hypermedia Discourse technologies, is also distinct in form and process from ‘distributed choreography’  and other telematic choreographic practices. The research for this paper has emerged from the fi rst six-month’s findings of e-Dance, a two-year interdisciplinary practice-led project bringing together practitioner/academics from the fields of Dance and e-Science, in a unique collaboration across three UK Research Councils.

e-Dance repurposes the Access Grid (AG), an online, meeting environment using advanced video-conferencing and integrated knowledge mapping technologies, as a context for telepresent performance, and hypermedia documentation of this practice as research. Automated annotation of the media combined with human annotation using hypermedia discourse tools provides a rich, structured data repository, both for choreographic reflection in/on process and with the potential to support the subsequent construction of hypermedia research narrative better suited to non-linear argumentation and presentation. Through this convergence in the visualization of both spatio-temporal structures and discourse, the project addresses two intersecting questions. Firstly, what unique opportunities does the distributed AG environment provide for developing new approaches to choreographic process/composition and for capturing/modelling practice-led research? Secondly, how can choreographic knowledge and sensibility enable e-Science practice to make its applications more usable within performance/arts practice-led research?

Central to an interrogation of these questions and the locus for the interdisciplinary discourse, are multifarious understandings of space and in particular the concept of location. The paradoxical sense of the ‘located’ in the non-co-located environment of AG provides a fruitful intersection for a creative and critical engagement across the disciplines. e-Dance is focused on the integration of live and mediatised dance performance across multiple, remote sites. It is exploring this as a context in which choreographic process is radically reformulated and relocated. Like Bolter and Grusin’s “remediation”, ‘relocation’ articulates a similar semantic movement or procedure. Yet, this is not only concerned with the conceptual/creative/idiomatic shift from one medium to another but also with shifts in the substance/context/affect of space. Given that the medium for choreographic practice, in its most essential terms, is the body moving in space and time, this radical revisioning has ontological and epistemological implications for the discipline. Johannes Birringer suggests that telepresent performance fundamentally challenges traditional formulations of compositional process and structure.
“This is no longer the modernist notion of composition; rather…(it) resembles a kind of postproduction of recording/recorded data, which in the case of dance
includes bodily movements, gestures, sensations. The emphasis has shifted from the object of representation to the emergent situation, and the materialization of technology, itself.” Performance within an AG environment is conceptualised and practiced as a ‘live’ phenomenon, in both the sense of actual, co-present activity and virtual non-co-present activity and the intersection between the two. In other words performers and spectators are co-present in physical spaces and simultaneously share multiple, virtual locations. Within an AG performance node the performers engage in live performance which is fed back to them and to other remote locations through streamed, wall-sized audiovideo media. Several video cameras are used to provide a multi-perspectival view of the dancer’s body and the performance space in each AG node synchronously. This streamed media can be recorded and re-distributed to remote locations synchronously or asynchronously.

  • Helen Bailey (UK) University of Bedfordshire
  • Simon Buckingham-Shum (UK) Open University
  • Sita Popat (UK) University of Leeds
  • Martin Turner (UK) University of Manchester

Full text (PDF) p. 41-43