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

by Jerome Weeks 25 Mar 2011

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.