Dance companies combine, explore technology

GVL / Eric Coulter
Vivaldi Dance Rehearsal

GVL / Eric Coulter Vivaldi Dance Rehearsal

Kari Norton

Grand Valley State University’s dance company will get a technology overhaul in their Oct. 22 recital, while collaborating with the Thodos Dance Chicago for a virtually interactive performance of Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons.’

Shawn Bible, GVSU faculty artist choreographer, has been working closely with Nate Bliton, the music and dance department’s equipment and stage manager, to master Kinect software and create technology that is controlled by the dancers’ movements.

“The Kinect is used as a sensor to tell the computer where the dancers are so they can interact with and generate the animation themselves,” Bliton said.

The idea to add animated software projections to the show spurred from a project called ‘Bodies in Motion’ that Bible and Bliton worked on over the summer. Nintendo Wii controllers were attached to dance students’ hands to control the music, and the concept for the fall arts performance grew from there, Bliton said.

Bible said the dance department is always exploring new ways to incorporate technology with dance.

“I am pretty sure GVSU has not seen something quite like this,” Bliton said. “I hope that people will see this and be inspired to put on a new kind of project, or some kind of interaction we haven’t thought of yet.”

The performance will begin with two original Thodos dances and conclude with the two companies performing the Vivaldi dance piece choreographed by Bible.

Bible said the collaboration with Thodos Dance Chicago is different from what GVSU’s dance department has done before. Guest dancers have performed with students in the past, but this is the first time an entire company has been invited.

Melisa Thodos, founder of the Thodos modern dance company, choreographed a dance for the department two years ago, and Bible said it was such a great experience that she was brought back with her whole company, comprised of 10 dancers.

“The audience should expect to see a highly energetic and thrilling dance performance by both Thodos Dance Chicago and GVSU Dance Company members,” Bible said.

Thodos Dance Chicago members arrived at the university Sunday, giving them a week to rehearse with the four GVSU dancers that were chosen to perform in the final production.

“This performance stands out because the caliber of performers is truly outstanding,” Bible said. “Our bill is full of amazing talent that has only been brought together by GVSU Dance.”

The companies are performing to live music by violinist Rachel Barton Pine from Chicago, and the GVSU Faculty and Staff Orchestra conducted by Henry Duitman.

“Every year I look forward to bringing an innovative element into the Fall Arts Dance productions, rather than present a traditional dance concert,” Bible said. “I look forward to seeing everyone at the performance, it is not to be missed.”

The Oct. 22 performance is free and open to the public, starting at 8 p.m. in the Louis Armstrong Theatre on the Allendale Campus. For more information call (616) 331-3484.
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