From Hyperchoreography to Kinaesthediting
This essay explains the rationale and influences behind Simon Fildes and Katrina McPherson's 'Hyperchoreography' and the works created within this conceptual model. It responds to some critical voices expressed on the idea, explores the current technical context and proposes a future framework for realising the concept more fully.
keywords - hyperchoreography, hypermedia, hypertext, networks, webdances, choreography, kinaesthediting
Author -Simon Fildes
I thought of the word Hyperchoreography in 1998 to describe a project I was working on to create an immersive reactive screen dance installation. This piece never got funded but after discussing the general idea and comparing notes with the video dance-maker Katrina McPherson in early 2001, together we laid out a conceptual framework in a short essay on our left-luggage website for a new way of working in screen dance. This is the definition of Hyperchoreography Katrina McPherson and I came up with.
'Using digital hypermedia, Hyperchoreography is a non-linear dance performance space. It only exists in an interactive and/or networked medium. It is based on the model of hypertext, as defined by Ted Nelson, and allows a choreographer/artist to create work that can be sequentially altered by a user at the point of interaction, moving through hyper-linked moving images. The elements are put in place by the creators, but the shape of the work is decided by the user at the moment of interaction.'
After working on dance films as a director/editor team for years we were acutely aware of the enormous diversity of possibilities in the creative process. The final edit is really only one ending in a range of infinite possibilities. Often the material that is discarded is often just as interesting as what made it into the final film. Hyperchoreography, was born out of a desire to expose more of that process to an audience.
Hyperchoreography or hyperdance?
Harmony Bench notes that the word 'hyperdance' is a better description for this type of work than Hyperchoreography which 'seems more fittingly applied to software programs such as LifeForms or DanceForms that actually allow the user to create or build movement sequences and steps, rather than re-arrange pre-recorded sequences or clips.... In hyperdance, the user builds new dances out of a discrete set of pre-choreographed, pre-recorded movement phrases; in hyperchoreography, choreography is precisely what must be created.' (Bench 2006:94)
I agree with this to an extent, but only in the syntactic mapping that equates hypertext to hyperdance and hyperwriting to Hyperchoreography. However, as Bench acknowledges, hyperdance is easily associated with a particular club-culture style of dancing, and it is probably too late to reclaim this term for our purposes. It could be argued that with re-editing and re-ordering of fragments of dance material, a re-writing takes place through contextual semantic shifts, thematic patterning and intertextuality, therefore I believe we have a form of hyperwriting and so Hyperchoreography is a valid descriptor to what we are trying achieve.
A recent discussion I was involved in with a group of dance artists on a workshop guided by the UK artist Jonathan Burrows, also reinforces my belief here. Burrows stated that apart from all the usual definitions, he thinks of choreography as 'choice making', a phrase I also use to describe the most basic level of the editing process. This is even more relevant when I'm editing McPherson's dance films, which is, if nothing else a re-choreographing of the dance as performed for the camera. As a rule we tend not to edit based on continuity of the original recorded sequences.
If choreography is 'choice making' in a linear temporal spatial physical sense then Hyperchoreography takes that 'choice making' in to a non-linear networked media sense.
Shortly after scoping the idea we made our first Hyperchoreographic work called 'big' based around a project created at a Snape Maltings residency in Suffolk ,UK with Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite and four dancers from Ricochet Dance Company, and mentored by Nik Haffner from ZKM Karlsruhe.
This first work was initially hosted by New Media Scotland with a grant from a web innovation scheme called Alt-W . It was then moved on to the current hyperchoreography.org site which has been running since 2003, gets about 12,000 visitors a year and features several different approaches to this type of non-linear work including links to other artists' works and a range of writing. Our second Hyperchoreography work, based on an Arts Council England funded dance film we made in 2003 with Ricochet Dance Company called 'The Truth', explores a different interface. It is intended to reflect the structure of the film in the relationship between what the choreographers, Paulo Ribeiro and Fin Walker, created for it. In response to some feedback from the users of 'big' this application also allows the user the ability to record sequences and play them back.
fig.1 - interface of 'big' on www.hyperchoreography.org
2. I even find the 'hyper' prefix problematic in its literal meaning of over or above, but I accept common usage in the context of hypermedia
3. Choreographic mentoring course with Jonathan Burrows at Universal Hall, Findhorn Foundation community, Moray, Scotland, December 4th - 8th 2006
4. DanceEast funded choreographic development residencies called 'Snape Sabbaticals' at Snape Maltings Aldeburgh, Suffolk, England