Want to Dance?

#dancelab – Denver Art Museum, Denver, July 10 through Oct. 2, 2016 –

Feels great to dance, right? But what do you look like dancing? The interactive installations at the Denver Art Museum this summer not only let’s you see your body in motion, but makes it art.

Surrounded by sculptures and paintings and the hushed or awesome atmosphere of an art museum, visitors to #dancelab see human bodies as forms. Forms apart from our self-conscious vision of ourselves. We as shapes, interesting shapes that morph into new forms, layered with graphic elements that diagram movement, while those elements intersect with our shapes and and allow us to see our body image … translated to a video. We become a flat image.

Making this laboratory of dance – you are essential to it.  You go into a circle of dance stations – choose one and let the computer recognize your body. You go through a series of movements and soon the computer sends video of you dancing to the wall of the gallery. The creators of this lab – Garrett Ammon of the dance company Wonderbound and Matt FaJohn of the digital design company Legwork – wanted to return dance to a community activity instead of Fine Art Dance where there is us and them, or the audience and the performers.  You add your body to the digital collection of dance movements and you are part of a community of dancers. You and others are projected on the gallery wall in living color on a black background surrounded by friendly strokes of graphic animation and soaked with great dance music.
Dance, the Fine Art, has become for me something that I have to buy a ticket to attend, and show up at a specific time. Then I experience, and generally love, that temporary art form. We can watch video but it isn’t the same as being there because dance is an art that we experience more than just see. It happens for me in the space of time that I dedicate to it.  But this show, this installation reminds me of how much of dance is a visual experience and how I wish I knew it well enough to slow it down to understand it almost frame by frame.  The action of this installation happens slowly. The participants add repetition of the moves that Ammon choreographed, Legwork programed, and their software makes fit the music created by another Denver local, Christophe Eagleton of Dynamite Laser Beam.

I always say that amateur skiing, most amateur sports, makes me realize the skill of really good sport. Children’s ballet is a chore when it comes to learning to appreciate really great dance.  The elemental dance created by #dancelab is so pleasant to watch, while still being simple, it makes me want to spend the time to see good contemporary dance. And the technology is not in the way.  This is a master feat by Legwork. You don’t have to push any keys, it’s less stress than making a plane reservation. You are moving and experiencing your body from the inside with the diagrams at the dance ‘stations’ and then you get to see it.  And see the shapes you make.

You can dance as if you were singing in the shower, and interact with the subtle – Dance Hero Machine – but when it goes out live on the wall you are no longer in control. You are part of a dancing community. You have made the art and now you get to watch it.

Watch our video introduction to  #dance lab.