The Body Electric

Seducing the Muse With Technology

Lately his students have been using a DVD that William Forsythe, artistic director of the Frankfurt Ballet, developed to train new members of his company. Called Improvisation Technologies, it features 60 video clips—augmented by computer animations—in which Forsythe and his dancers demonstrate different principles of movement and space.

"I've been teaching creative movement for 20 years, but this changes everything," says Koplowitz. "It lets my students create their own movement vocabularies, and they look nothing like Forsythe's. It helps them reorient space and their relationship to it. And it gives them a way to talk about movement that goes beyond feelings."

Computer technology also offers performing artists a useful marketing tool, Koplowitz says. Next month at DTW he will begin teaching a basic video editing workshop using Apple's iMovie software. Participants will come in with raw video of their work and walk out, an hour later, with an edited DVD. For artists with more advanced needs, DTW offers private consultations using Final Cut Pro.

Midi in the middle: Dawn Stoppiello of Troika Ranch, multiplied
photo: Staci Schwartz
Midi in the middle: Dawn Stoppiello of Troika Ranch, multiplied


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Later this spring, DTW will begin offering a video streaming service. Artists can drop off a five-minute video clip and have it converted, compressed into three major formats (QuickTime, RealPlayer, and Windows Media) in multiple sizes, and hosted online. The service costs $150 for the first year. (The Kitchen uses the same service to show performance clips on its Web site.)

"You can't get a grant anymore without a video of your work," says Weis. "But many choreographers have no grasp of how to prepare one. The post-production facilities in the ARM lab put it within their reach."

The fellows are quick to point out that technology is not an end in itself. "I see the video and computer work as just a tool along the way," Donohue said via e-mail from Tokyo. "Part of the craft. But the art happens before and after, in the studio and on the stage."

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