First, the instructor uses the computer with Datashow to illustrate the individual movements of a ronde-de-jambe in the international graphic dance language of Labanotation. Students then practice reading and writing the new material in Labanotation. Then, students work collaboratively with their base groups (three or four students who work together regularly and who have established a level of confidence and trust). As the instructor shows them the proper usage of the foot and leg; each dancer, in turn, tries to perfect the technique while the others watch. They carefully make corrections and suggestionsas they wait their turn to do the movements. Following the collaborative skill training, class resumes with a more traditional technique class, strengthening and stretching the body, testing placement and proper usage. Later, the students may go to the movement science lab where they will use the computer-video interactive system to hone their skills even further. In the lab, a computer compares the student's live movement, as input by a video camera, to an accepted, correct movement prerecorded on videotape.
The class then progresses into the combination phase, where the instructor gives the students practice at combining movements into longer phrases. During this part of class, the technician, a trained dancer herself, captures the efforts of the class on videotape. She assists the instructor by carefully recording some details of each student's progress for later analysis. At the end of the combination section, the students perform their newly- learned material for each other in groups, again getting help from group members. They then return to the Datashow to see the same movement combination as shown by the LifeForms program, which animates computer-generated figures, according to the choreography input by the instructor.
After watching the combination with a single figure on the computer, the instructor assigns students to A, B, C, D, or E roles, which groups them according to where in the performance space they will perform the original combination. Each group then moves to a separate computer station in the classroom where they use LifeForms to learn the floor pattern of the combination for their group. The program also shows the interrelationship between their group and the other groups. The video technician again moves around the room to record as much as she can of the various groups' work. Toward the end of class, the groups assemble and put the short choreographic study together as the video technician records the project. Afterwards, the students grab their towels and warm-up clothes and move to the seminar room.
In the seminar room, they watch the videotaped segments of their technique class, seeing both the successes and challenges, as the instructor comments. They watch their movement study and discuss the choreographic techniques, dynamics, and performance quality. The discussion ends as a videoconference from New York City starts. The link allows them to see new works by students at New York University (or perhaps professionals from a major company) performed live and to have a question-answer session with the choreographer and dancers afterwards. Later, they will review videotape of the performances and discuss the choreographic, technical and performance skills used. Then they will return to the computer lab where they will create their own short work on the LifeForms program, utilizing the techniques learned in class.
Fiction? Not really. Much of the technology is currently available on the Chandler-Gilbert Community College campus. As usual, it's just a matter of time, money and space to put it all together. Video is an integral component of the dance program at Chandler-Gilbert, providing students with the kind of personal, objective and unerring feedback essential for skill development. The use of the LifeForms and Labanotation programs is limited only by computer availability in the classroom and time to develop instructional uses and issues common to most disciplines beginning to incorporate technology in instruction.
Through the ages, the art of dance has been passed on from one generation to the next from dancer to dancer, in some cultures from parent to child, in other cultures, from one specialist to another. Rich in traditions dating back to the beginning of humanity, the art of dance has seldom been given the recognition it deserves because its written history is so sparse and no tangible product remains after the performance is over. The life of each dance is as fleeting as the moment of performance and as long as the memory that lingers. Technology of the twentieth century has improved our ability to pass our dances to the next generation, increasing the clarity and understanding of the archival process. It isn't hard to imagine donning virtual reality equipment to "virtually" sit in the audience for an historical performance or even take your place onstage and perform with a group of dancers existing only in digital form. While technology holds tremendous potential for improving the process of dance creation, archiving, and instruction, the raison d'etre of dance will always be the human form and condition.