The change in the perception of corporeal physicality and of its use in daily life, the way it has been modeled by the advent of technologies, has by now been assimilated into every aspect of our lives. The Internet’s interaction with various disciplines, among them art and music, has found a place even for dance. Bodies lose their weight and adapt to the fluidity of cyberspace, evoking the physical world. Virtual choreographies are freely and continuously enjoyed over the network, which is often called upon to participate in, and to become co-creator of, the works in question.
Some artists have created works of Net art by abstracting choreographies in which dance and its interpreters are generated by a computer program: a tango is materialized in the written words of Jess Loseby, where red and green writings respectively represent two protagonists in confrontation.
Others have filmed physical dance and adapted it to the web, creating choreographies designed to take full advantage of the Internet’s potential. Simon Fields and Katrina McPherson have worked in this direction and have coined the term “hyperchoreography” – an online choreography where users take previously filmed dance steps and orchestrate various combinations with them, as in Big (2001), one of their first projects.
A dancing figure, from appearances closer to a cyborg than to a human, dances in the surreal space of Portal. Net. Dance (2003), work of the Iranian artist Yael Kanarek, created in collaboration with the choreographer Evann Siebens. The movements follow the rhythm of the soundtrack of the video game Atari, transposed by the musician Yoav Gal into a completely digital world.
Dance steps inspired by objects of African rituals are frozen in the images of Latitudes (1996), realized by the choreographer Molissa Fenley for the DIA Art Foundation, one of the first American institutions to commission online works. Fragments of choreography are revealed in the images of postures inspired by African ritual objects without ever unveiling themselves.
The work of the French dance company Mulleras, pioneer in experimentation with online choreography, subsequently presented also as performances, video installations, interactive CD-ROMs and multimedia exhibitions, merits particular attention. Mini@tures (1998 – 2001), their first experiment in net.dance, is a plural choreography where electronic music, modern dance, video-art and web design find a meeting point. The dancers are filmed in physical space and their steps readapted to choreography on the web, where they match up against the physical world. The figures, reduced to miniature dimensions, offer multiple interpretations to be explored interactively inside a large web mosaic.
In Tap, a project of James Buckhouse in collaboration with tap instructor Holly Brubach, an animated figure reproduces steps decided by the users. If the Internet has taken us more and more in the direction of the virtualization of the body, and thus also of performances, some of these performances have been given back to us in the physical world, mediated by the portable instruments of technology. Software can be downloaded from the Internet in public places or even onto handheld devices, small portable computers the size of a cell phone. With Tapwe can participate in the creation of new choreographies sitting in front of the computer or killing time on the bus. The creation of virtual dance steps, however, requires exercise and practice just like dancing in real life. And so, once again, reality and fiction, the physical and virtual worlds, meet and leave the observer confused as to where one ends and the other begins.