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Dance-Making on the Internet: continued..

M@ggie’s Love Bytes

M@ggie’s Love Bytes is a real-time performance, so it is only possible to see the dance while it is actually being performed somewhere in the world. The piece consists of three female dancers in bras and knickers and carrying sink plungers, some musicians, a choreographer at a computer desk, two computer screens projected behind the dancers, a sound system and other technological aids. The performance is viewed by an audience in a theatre space, and also over the Internet via videoconferencing. During the performance, Internet viewers may submit sound and image files, which are played or projected on the screen behind the dancers. A continuous text dialogue takes place between Internet viewers, choreographer and musicians, and is also displayed on the screen along with the images of the viewers from the videoconferencing system. The atmosphere is extremely informal, and all the workings, both technological and performance-based, are visible. This description, from images and text on the Web site (see Figure 2), was the basis for the first stage of analysis prior to the live performance.

Figure 2: Screenshot of M@ggie’s Love Bytes’ Web site image of the live performance: M@ggie’s Miniature Theatre (http://www.utam.uio.no/~amandajs/slideshow.html)

Analysis of M@ggie’s Love Bytes
Supportiveness of creative environment:
Interviewee B described this approach as “give us your stuff and we’ll dance it”. He said that he felt that he did not need to know anything about dance to participate creatively. Interviewee D liked the idea of being “a director”. All the Interviewees liked the idea of the informality, but Interviewee E was concerned that she might say something that sounded “silly”.

Motivation to create:
All the interviewees appreciated the immediacy of the situation as an important factor in motivation. Interviewee B liked the idea of “really being involved…seeing my stuff interpreted”. Interviewee A stated that she felt immediacy to be an essential element of the Internet. Interviewee C was particularly interested in the fact that she would be able to see “real dancers”.

Personal evaluation of the product is omitted from this section, as the product was analysed later in the study when Popat attended the M@ggie’s Love Bytes performance.

Preparation given by previous knowledge:
During the performance, M@ggie’s Love Bytes assumes knowledge of how to use videoconferencing software, although technical help is given on the Web site. This project does not seem to require any dance knowledge, as submissions are only made in the form of inspirations to be used by the dancers and choreographer.

The Creative Experience of the Participant

According to the above analyses, from an external viewpoint none of the Web sites provide a particularly creative experience for the participant. Participants’ involvement in the process of dance-making was avoided in the cases of Webbed Feats and M@ggie’s Love Bytes, where all creation of the dance took place between artists and dancers away from the participants. Progressive 2 appears to provide a supportive environment yet the lack of product constituted a low level of motivation for participation. There were some dance or perceptual skill demands in forming material, but although this attracted Interviewee A, an experienced dancer, it had a negative effect on two of the interviewees with less dance experience. This raises issues about target audiences for interactive dance-making projects on the Internet. The above projects have not apparently managed to obtain a balance of constraints where participants with a variety of levels of dance knowledge can all participate creatively. Perhaps it is not possible to provide a creative experience on the Web for the participant who does not already possess a high level of specialist dance knowledge. Conversely, what is the justification for interactive dance creation if the average member of the Web-using public cannot participate creatively?

However, when the interviewees were asked which project felt the most creative to them, all of them indicated M@ggie’s Love Bytes. They felt that Webbed Feats provided a very limited feeling of participation, and although Progressive 2 provided a strong sense of control, it was frustrating due to lack of product. But M@ggie’s Love Bytes differs in the respect that the communication between the participant and dancers appears to be two-way. Participants communicate by submitting a multimedia file, and then see the dancers respond immediately via the screen. This allows the participant to send other files in reply to the dancers. This direct, synchronous, two-way communication is the reason why M@ggie’s Love Bytes appears to provide such a strong sense of participation. This response was based only on the description of the process, however, as the interviewees had not seen the actual performance.

Abb’s Creative Cycle

When Abb’s creative cycle is applied to the projects in question, analysing the relationship between participant and material on the Internet (including artists), it clarifies the success of the M@ggie’s Love Bytes model, and exposes the missing features in Progressive 2 and Webbed Feats. Webbed Feats never allows the participant beyond the first phase of supplying stimuli for the choreographer to begin creating. Phases two and three (working within the medium, and realisation of final form) take place so far removed from the participant that by the time the performance is reached in phase four, the participant is unlikely even to recognise his or her influence in it. Progressive 2 fixes the participant in the third phase: realisation of final form. It does not allow the participant into the first or second phases, since the movement material is provided, and nor does it permit the participant to complete the dance, so it can never go beyond phase three.

Only M@ggie’s Love Bytes completes the cycle. The participant submits a stimulus at phase one. He or she then watches the dancers work through phases two and three, creating and forming material through the act of improvisation. On viewing it (phase four) the participant may then respond either in text or by submitting another stimulus. The full cycle takes place as a combination of artists and participants through synchronous, two-way communication.

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