Whatever Dance Toolbox by BADco.

December 31, 2010

During recently held ‘Workshop with Choreographic Objects‘ under the guidance of Scott deLahunta, I had an opportunity to get an introduction of the project Whatever Dance Toolbox – WDT by the members of BADco., Ana Kreitmeyer and Tomislav Medak (check the video guidance bellow review).


WDT by BADco., photo by Tom Medak (cc)

At the moment, motion capturing still belongs to a rather expensive field, possible only for huge and heavily budgeted institutional projects and studios. On the other hand, video tracking, movement tracking, and multi-tracking recognition belong to sort of; let’s say it plausible, affordable technologies regarding new media tools in performative context.

Naturally, the latter scene also needs significant and strong supportive grants for development, although it’s based more on lucidity and inventiveness of the programmers involved in the whole story, compared to big ‘loaded’ studios previously mentioned.


WDT by BADco., photo by Tom Medak (cc)

WDT has been developed by Hamburg based interface designer and programmer Daniel Turing. Turing is interested in the relation between human and machine cognitions, with special accents on the movements and tangibility within interactive and digital realms.

Precursor to this project was developed within Turing’s Iterative.org, more precisely dance performance from 2004, entitled ‘echo & narziss’ with the contributing team of collaborators that included Aleksandra Janeva, Astrid Schwarz and Oliver Maklott.

Parallel with Turing’s interests, BADco. also had their own needs regarding analysis of choreographic language, movement and space mapping, communication between dramaturges and performers, enhancing and reinforcing performers’ embodiment, exploring the machine’s ‘sensibility’, accessibility to movement tracking tools as open sourcing process, just to name few.


WDT by BADco., photo by Tom Medak (cc)

From the software’s point of view, the WDT project is divided into two parts: ‘What the Machine Can See 1 – Space’ (WTMS 1) and ‘What the Machine Can See 2 – Time’ (WTMS 2) combining the possible choreographic and algorithmic connectivity through the analogy of the echo. The software is based on the methodology of task. Thus, WTMS 1 offers filters such as: Inertia, Task oriented, Stay in the Cage, and Inertia in the Box, whilst WTMS 2 gives to the ‘dancer / player’ an opportunity to try filters such as Trigger, Constant, Appear / Disappear and Delay / Backwards.

Working principles:
While analyzing the recorded material, the image is being transformed into grayscale. Based on the patterns of the grayscale, the software recognizes something what might be the focus of the human body’s silhouette. Then again, by following the movements and silhouettes through the grayscale, while transforming the body, the software responses with an image visible on the screen.


WDT by BADco., photo by Tom Medak (cc)

BADco. say about it: ‘During the rehearsal dancers can manipulate the image of movement and work with an ”active mirror” that emits qualities which they haven’t produced yet. Body is thus placed inside a different relation to its environment which, in turn, determines and changes its expressivity.’

‘Tools, conveniently dubbed What the Machine Can See or WTMS, employ visual analysis, delay, reverse-play and jitter functions to allow dancers and choreographers to study and complexity their movements and relations. The machine-factor generates an organization of choreographic elements different and alien to what other choreographic methodologies can produce.’

WDT is completely open source project designed on GNU/Linux operative system, having in mind substitutions for Flash program via OpenGL, and offering a concept based on GObject-based libraries.


WDT by BADco., photo by Tom Medak (cc)

Platforms: Linux, Windows, Mac OS
Hardware: well-lit white or black room, a camera, a beamer and a computer.
Software: WDT (to be published as downloadable open source project during April, 2011)

The use of WDT tools is not intended for dancers and choreographers exclusively, but also for nurseries, schools and cultural centres, because WDT has been presented so far also to educators, teachers, and pedagogues. The company had interesting feedback while working with children who have disorders with the  senses of balance.

WDT gives a strong contribution to the new media performance area where most things are still in pioneering stages, and it can be used as a digital landscape in performances, too (previously used in company’s performance Deleted Messages). In the era of Wii & iPad usability for enhancing and playing with the physicality of our bodies, this piece of software is definitely useful and rather focused tool.

Through latent twinkling Whatever Dance Toolbox appeals ‘digital ghosts’ from early stages of computing, such as 8bit aesthetics, but only as unintentional and fluid dedication to the history of the machine.

Tomislav Medak presenting Whatever Dance Toolbox, Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Whatever Dance Toolbox by BADco. explained by dancer Ana Kreitmeyer

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