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Improvisation Technologies: A Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye

Improvisation Technologies, A Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye

Improvisation Technologies: A Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye

Improvisation Technologies A Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye was developed by Volker Kuchelmeister in collaboration with American born choreographer William Forsythe as a "digital dance school" in the form of an interactive computer installation. It consists of over a hundred video lectures in which Forsythe demonstrates and comments on the essential principles of his motional language, where film, audio, animation and CGI express the choreographer's meaning in an immersive, 4D experience.

Former director of Frankfurt Ballet (1984-2004), Forsythe is recognised as one of the world's foremost choreographers and widely credited with revitalising classical ballet for the twenty-first century. His choreographic vocabulary has redefined body, space, time and movement. Starting in 1994, Volker Kuchelmeister and Chris Ziegler collaborated with Forsythe and the ZKM Centre for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Institute for Visual Media to produce a prototypical interactive application to visualise and explain Forsythe's improvisation techniques to a wider audience. This prototype, The loss of small detail, was very well received and subsequently the ZKM, Frankfurt Ballet and the German Dance Archive in Cologne (Deutsches Tanzarchiv Köln) funded the production of the interactive training installation for professional dancers. This version was released in 1996 as Improvisation Technologies (Self Meant to Govern).

Forsythe's video lectures are augmented with computer generated and animated shapes, forms and figures to illustrate the choreographer's improvisation techniques and theoretical principles. References to moments in actual stage performances and demonstrations from Frankfurt Ballet company dancers, improvising on the theory lecture themes, close the circle reaching from theory to practice. This conceptual framework proved very effective as a didactic tool.

In 1999 the Improvisation Technologies was released as an interactive CD-ROM with book Improvisational Technologies. A Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye. This edition features some 60 video chapters in which Forsythe demonstrates and comments upon the essential principles of his motional language. Examples, danced by members of the Frankfurt Ballet, can be called up as required. Also included is a solo performance by Forsythe, filmed in 1996 by Thomas Lovell Balogh. The CD-ROM was later published in Japan, and the English version is in its third edition as of October 2011.

To translate Forsythe's commentary and teaching, the multi-media training application was developed with a uniquely clear structure, reduced design and simple navigation. It is credited as one of the best implementations of a screen based interactive training tool, was exhibited over 90 times around the world, and has won multiple prestigious awards including:

  • Bronze Award, Interactive Media Design Review, I.D. Magazine, New York, 2000
  • Honorary Mention (Special Prize), Prix Moebius Germany, Marstall Muenchen, Munich, 1999
  • Winner New Voices, New Visions, New York. Wired Magazine, Interval Research & Voyager, 1996
  • Honorary Mention, Artec, Nagoya, 1995

"Improvisation Technologies, created by William Forsythe's Frankfurt Ballet and technical designers at the ZKM over a period of five years (1994-99), is an outstanding example of a CD-ROM that offers a rich and complex insider perspective on the methodologies of creative process, a 'school of perception' that ingeniously links theory and practice to place the user in the studio and make familiar the large palette of terms and organizational metaphors employed in Forsythe's 'initiations' for movement." Johannes H. Birringer, PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art