research projects

Choreotopography: live motion capture & 3D dance performance

Live motion capture & 3D stereo projection augment contemporary ballet, transforming the landscape of choreography into a 3D visual event.

Choreotopography places in dialogue environmental design and artistic/choreographic approaches to visualizing spatial pathways through 3D virtual environments.  In doing so, this project forms one aspect of Deakin's Centre for Memory, Imagination and Invention's larger project, Creative place-based learning: The role of creativity in managing public assets. Movement is a key element in the design of public sites and critical to environmentally aware design that respects the materiality and the cultural significance of place.  Choreography offers a creative, poetic methodology for visualizing movement pathways and the subtle human nuances inherent in them. 

The project takes as its base a design concept for Pearl, a major new cultural facility on the Darwin Waterfront Peninsula developed by the independent design studios Material Thinking (Creative Director, Paul Carter) and Dyskors (Principal Designer, Edmund Carter] in 2008/2009.  The design concept articulates a vision for developing the Peninsula site at the Darwin Waterfront that positions the site as a whole in the context of the redevelopment of the State Square Precinct.  A key concept of the design is the creation of 'open curves' within the landscape that invite movement through and around the cultural facility.  The main structure is conceived as a 'pearl shell', which concentrates social activity and cohesion as a pearl that is built within a shell around the catalyst of grit. Key to this design is the circular/tidal movement of people through and around the entire site. 

The creative team at the Deakin Motion.Labcreated dance that uses live motion capture of performers' movement to generate 3D stereoprojection images that extrapolated the dancers' pathways, actions and movement inflections into the surrounding 3D volume.  Choreography was positioned as a response to, and a rescoring of, the design concepts of Pearl, Mast, Shell.  A key aspect of the methodology was the use of 3D stereoprojection to articulate the 'z' axis (movement towards and away from the observer), which is normally inaccessible within traditional theatre spaces. The proscenium arch of the formal theatre defines the visual plane in terms of the x-y, or frontal plane. Stereoprojection, in which the audience wears 3D glasses and experiences the images as reaching forward in front of and back behind the projection screen, unlocks the 'z' axis by moving images throughout a volume defined by the separation of images on the screen and the distance at which the audience sits.  Live optical motion capture allowed us to extrapolate the dancers' movements into the 'z' axis space opened up by 3D projection. In Choreotopography, we did this to both extend the dancers' apparent influence out into the space, and to create virtual 'landscapes' in which performers carve trajectories of force and affect.

Creative methodologies are invariably additive. That is to say, they do not represent as much as extrapolate in a generative sense, and they potentially layer visualizations with cultural and artistic nuances that go beyond the original design brief.  This project exploits rather than avoids this tension by positioning environmental design and choreographic practice in a dialogue in which each provokes and is provoked by the other, to generate new, synergistic understandings of how movement flow through environments, both artistic and environmental, might be structured.  The result is a performance in simultaneous dialogue with both domains.

This project marked the first collaboration between the Deakin Motion.Lab and the Melbourne Ballet Company. Melbourne Ballet Company seeks to enrich and stimulate the widest audiences, through city and regional performances that will showcase the very best talent that Australia has to offer. The company will be responsible for helping shape the future of dance in Australia through the discovery and nurturing of the very best talent in dance, theatrical design and choreography.  

Within the Centre for Memory, Imagination and Invention, Choreotopography brought together a group of artist/researchers with a shared interest in movement and spatial design. The project team comprises:

Kim Vincs - Choreographer and interactive media design
Paul Carter - Conceptual development
John McCormick - Interactive media design and implementation
Daniel Skovli - Interactive media design and implementation
Peter Divers - Interactive media design and implementation
Rob Vincs - Original Score
Richard Burt - Media implimentation
Dirk de Bruyn - Conceptual development
Yoni Prior - Conceptual development
Shaun McLeod - Conceptual development


Sharon Fernandez
Sakura Shimizu
Shannon Ellis
Emma Corbett

Understudy: Jaslyn Reader

Choreotypography - Performed at the Playhouse Theatre, Victorian Arts Centre, December 3 at 7.30pm, December 4 at 1pm and 7.30pm.

See the gallery for more images.

Media information - click here

Media Response - The Age; Herald Sun