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Afternoon Delight: Modern Dance Like You've Never Seen It

by Jerome Weeks 25 Mar 2011 1:00 PM

Artists have been bringing computer applications into their music, sculptures and dramas for years, but rarely has anyone achieved a kind of human-digital synthesis like the Australian dance company, Chunky Move. If ‘The Matrix’ could dance, it might look like this.


Afternoon Delight is a daily diversion for when you’re just back from lunch, but not quite ready to get back to work. Check back Monday at 1 p.m. for another one.

“Mortal Engine”: This beautiful, creepy and utterly mesmerizing dance work was created by Chunky Move, an Australian dance company led by choreographer Gideon Obarzanek. Rather than using video projections that are essentially a moving form of scenery — distinct from the dancers and often providing their own narratives — Chunky Move has developed a highly sophisticated synergy of human movement with real-time laser projections. The light images in this video are created with an infrared video camera that informs a computer where the dancer is, how fast she’s moving, and the computer generates a graphic response. This permits the dancer or choreographer to control and interact with the imagery, rather than having to rehearse to a pre-set tape. As Obarzanek says, he ends up choreographing light.

Obarzanek explains how he arrived at this remarkable technique in the video below, just skip forward to around the 7:00 mark (after the ‘Mortal Engine’ video is over). Obarzanek is speaking at PopTech, a TED-like conference of a global network of thinkers and visionaries.