Dance with Technology: Exploring the Impact of Technology on Modern Dance


The unexpected duet of beats and bytes is sculpting the next era of performance art and reimagining audience engagement.

Are you glued to your screen, endlessly watching TikTok dances, secretly yearning to master those moves? But there’s a gnawing feeling in your chest saying, “I’m just a rookie on the dance floor; I can’t do that.” If that is the case, here is news that might bring a smile to your face (and a pep in your step).

The unexpected partnership between modern dance and technology has made choreographing, executing and archiving dance not only effortless but also innovative. Thanks to motion-capture suits, interactive choreography and immersive digital experiences, technology has breathed new life into the dance art form, captivating both audiences and dancers with its boundless potential for innovation.

Navigating through the nuanced world of dance, various technologies have emerged to preserve, enhance and innovate choreographic expressions. Let’s delve into a few groundbreaking platforms and tools that have reshaped the creation and presentation of dance.

Leveraging tech for choreography enhancement

For dancers who’ve encountered a choreographer’s block—those moments when your brain freezes and developing moves becomes a struggle—technology can become your collaborative partner, offering tools to make the choreography process more fluid.

The Motion Bank: Turning dance into 3D steps and digital scores

The Motion Bank records dance movements, making them available online as “digital scores”.
Image Courtesy of the Motion Bank

Initiated in 2010 by The Forsythe Company, the Motion Bank seeks to transform contemporary choreography into visual 3D steps through digital technologies. The project, conceived by the imaginative prowess of American choreographer William Forsythe, employs Microsoft Kinect‘s motion-sensing device to construct a digital library of choreographic movements and concepts.

Here’s how it works: First, the device comprehends dance movements and turns them into accessible computer data online. Then, the Motion Bank brings them all together, developing a digital repository of choreographic movements. These movements, recorded and transformed into visual information, are available on the internet as “digital scores”. This way, you’ll have a digital archive of dance steps at your fingertips, making choreography easy and convenient. 

ChoreoRoom: Crafting and sharing dance formations digitally

Creation of customized dance formations with ChoreoRoom.
Image courtesy of Applion

ChoreoRoom emerged as a holy grail for choreographers, stepping beyond the traditional use of paper-based blocking sheets, which were used to interpret and assign positions and movements to performers while conceptualizing formations in a dance routine.

This dance formation app allows choreographers to generate and share dance formations via email or AirDrop, swiftly organize dancers and preview their shifts between dance formations. The best part is that you can further customize your performer’s positions with labels, colors, off-stage markers and altered formation sequences.

Electronic Traces: Bringing dance movements to digital life

Electronic Traces are embedded with specialized chips to meticulously capture a dancer’s complex movements.
Image courtesy of Lesia Trubat on Behance

Today’s technologies, including compact digital cameras embedded within dancers’ accessories and precision-designed camera lenses capable of capturing even the minutest movements, have revolutionized motion recording in dance. An innovation worth noting is the motion-tracking Electronic Traces Pointe ballet shoes designed by designer Lesia Trubat.

Electronic Traces hinges on capturing dance gestures, converting them into visual experiences and employing them for training with a primary focus on ballet shoes. These shoes, embedded with Lilypad Arduino technology, can record the pressure and movement of a dancer’s feet as they interact with the floor. This information is then transmitted to a mobile app via Bluetooth, displayed graphically and can be personalized using the app’s various features. 

Users can visualize the collected dance movement data on the accompanying mobile app.
Image courtesy of Lesia Trubat on Behance

Users can watch a video recording of their entire dance session, extract specific still images and even produce physical copies. Thus, dancers can critically analyze their movements, implement necessary adjustments or compare their techniques with those of their fellow dancers’.

Technology-enriching stage performances

The impact of technology on dance is not just limited to aiding choreographers but also extends to reshaping the audience’s viewing experience, enveloping them into a world where digital and physical realities blend.

eMotion: Merging physical and virtual realities on stage

Adrien M & Claire B’s Pixel performance employed eMotion technology to seamlessly incorporate pixelated rain showers into the dance narrative.
Image Courtesy of Adrien M & Claire B

Gone are the days when dance performances were confined to the static 2D backgrounds to fill empty spaces. Today, backdrops can animate and seamlessly integrate into the performance, becoming an integral part of the show, almost like an additional dancer on the stage.

Introducing eMotion, a specialized tool enabling users to effortlessly create an immersive and interactive setup by using light projections on the stage and its backdrop. A prime example of its application would be Pixel (EXTRAITS), a 2014 dance composition from Adrien M / Claire B company for a French dance ensemble, celebrated for its inventive blend of physical and digital performance. In this production, which utilized eMotion, dancers gracefully twirl within virtual rings and seek shelter under umbrellas, seemingly shielding themselves from a pixelated rain shower.

Such innovative methods have permeated mainstream entertainment as well. A notable instance would be Beyoncé’s performance at the 2011 Billboard Music Awards, where she synchronized her dance sequence with hundreds of her virtual clones

Virtual reality headsets: engaging audience with VR performances

DUST immerses the audience in the performance with VR headsets.
Image Courtesy of DUST

As technological instruments, notably virtual reality (VR) headsets, permeate the dance world, they blur the lines between physical and digital spaces. Take, for instance, DUST, an immersive VR performance artwork that enables the audience to experience a dance performance through the eyes of a cosmic traveler. It redefines the traditional dynamics between performers and their audience by immersing viewers directly into the performance. 

Empowering artistic endeavors through tech advancements

While the influence of technology in dance will vary among artists, the penetration of innovation into the dance sphere warrants acknowledgment of its potential to make art more accessible. 

Just as ChatGPT redefined the world of content creation, making sophisticated writing assistance available to all, various tech tools in the realm of dance can effortlessly morph an amateur dancer into a TikTok sensation.

However, it’s important to understand that as dance navigates into a posthuman era, it does not undermine human creativity in crafting and directing choreography. Rather, it serves as a facilitator in choreographing, assisting in the curation of otherwise elusive dance moves and enriching the process of experimenting with technology. These tools, far from being an artist’s adversary, are enablers that elevate the zenith of artistic potential and creativity.

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Header image courtesy of Pexels 


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