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From Tweeting to Wii, Technology Meets Dance in W&L Concert

W&L dancers will carry and wear WiiMotes to translate movement into sound.
W&L dancers will carry and wear WiiMotes to translate movement into sound.
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Jenefer Davies discusses the high-tech dance concert.
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Washington and Lee University's upcoming dance concert will test the use of Twitter as a benefit to the audience and will demonstrate the use of a Nintendo Wii as a way to translate movement to sound.

"Technology is a significant element in this recital," said Jenefer Davies, assistant professor of dance and theater at W&L. "We are using Twitter as a research project, while the use of the Wii is a collaboration with an Austin, Texas, composer who has used this technology with other dance companies."

The concert is scheduled for Jan. 28 and Jan. 29 at 7:30 p.m. and Jan. 30 at 3 p.m. Performances are in Keller Theatre, and tickets may be purchased in advance on-line at lenfest.wlu.edu or through the Lenfest box office by calling (540) 458-8000.

According to Davies, Twitter, the microblogging service that enables its users to send and read 140-character messages known as tweets, will be employed as way to provide audience members with context that they might not otherwise have for the dances while they are in progress.

"We have established a Twitter feed, and David Doobin, a student, has done extensive background research on the dances that will be performed. He has interviewed the choreographers and has information regarding the inspiration behind the works," said Davies. "Throughout the concert, he will be sending live tweets that provide insights into what is happening on the stage. Any member of the audience can subscribe to the Twitter feed and receive the information in real time during the concert."

Davies said that dance lends itself to such an experiment because dance can be difficult for many people to understand. She added that one of her goals is to understand whether the use of this technology helps or hurts a viewer's experience and how different audience members might respond.

"My hope is that is will create a more inclusive environment and make people feel that they are part of this experience," she said.

The Twitter feed can be received by logging into Twitter and following wludanceconcert. (http://www.twitter.com/wludanceconcert).

Meanwhile, one of the pieces that the Twitter feeds will illuminate uses the Nintendo Wii in a novel way to transform the dancers' movements and gestures into sound. Davies will be collaborating with William H. Meadows, a composer from Austin, Texas, who has constructed Kyma DSP software to exploit the buttons and accelerometers on the WiiMotes. Dancers will carry and wear the WiiMotes during the performance.

The concert will also feature Arachne Aerial Arts, combining the artistry of dance with the drama of aerial acrobatics. Arachne Aerial Arts specializes in high-impact duo performance for theaters, museums, galleries and events. The DC-based company performs from rafters throughout the region and has received praise from critics, clients and audiences alike, including awards from Metro DC Dance and the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Co-directors Andrea Burkholder and Sharon Witting, a Washington and Lee alumna, began flying together in 2000 and have continued their intensive training at the New England Center for Circus Arts with former members of Cirque du Soleil.

Altogether, nine guest artists will perform with the company. Immediately following each performance, Davies will invite the audience to join the company for guest artist talk-back sessions.

The performances will include faculty pieces and 11 student pieces, with the arrangement of dances varying over the three shows. For the Friday night show, The Xi Delta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha and the Beta Beta Nu Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma will also perform step routines. Stepping has its roots in African percussive dance.