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Visualizations capture the essence of dance

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  August 29, 2013 09:04 AM

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Of all artistic mediums, dance may be the hardest to archive and study. It doesn't reduce quite as easily as its close counterpart, music, to a system of universal notations.

A collaboration called Motion Bank is trying to solve this problem, by using motion capture technology to translate dance performances into a stream of vivid, visual lines on the computer screen. The project was started by choreographer William Forsythe, in conjunction with several partners including the Offenbach University of Art and Design and The Ohio State University. As The Creators Project reported earlier this month, The Motion Bank is not the first effort to digitally capture dance movements, but it is the most ambitious. Forsythe's aim is to create an open-access database of dance performances, that people around the world can add to, study, and draw from when creating their own compositions. Forsythe uses Microsoft Kinect-a widely available, inexpensive technology-to capture dance movements. Visual artists then translate that digital data into colorful, flowing lines, which appear less as an abstraction of dance, and more like its essence.

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Images courtesy of The Motion Bank. Photographs by Jessica Schäfer. Animations by Amin Weber.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

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Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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