ON THE DIGITAL HIGHWAY Choreographers are being urged to design dances on PCs and explore
the creative use of the multimedia.
Dancers are turning
digital. Today is the second day of a weekend workshop at the South
Bank Centre, London, in which 12 of Britain's top choreographers,
including Ashley Page of the Royal Ballet, have begun to explore the
potential of digital dancing, a new craze that is sweeping Canada and
The workshop, taking place at the Royal Festival Hall as part of this
year's Dance Umbrella Festival, has been masterminded by Terry Braun,
a film director who produced several parts of The Net, the BBC's
recent series on the information superhighway.
The aim of the workshop, says Braun, is to convince dancing experts of
the creative potential of computers and multimedia.
"On one level the personal computer can be like a palette for
dancers and choreographers to try out new movements away from the
theatre," says Braun. "On a deeper level it can be the
toolbox for a completely new kind of video and television-based
Canadian software called LifeForms which has been written for the
Apple Mac, can be used by choreographers to design new movements for
dancers when they have no access to either dancers or a theatre.
LifeForms - developed in the Computer Graphics Research Laboratory at
the Simon Fraser University in Canada - is able to draw the figure of
a dancer on a stage and is programmed to refuse any movements that the
human body cannot achieve.
Frames of movements can be replayed to give the operator a genuine
idea of how a series of movements would look on stage.
"This means choreographers can design pieces when they are at
home, or even on the move using a notebook computer," says Braun.
"It opens up new possibilities of how and when they can
However, Braun is also pushing hard the idea of digital dancing as a
new medium for use in video, television and ultimately for multimedia
applications on CD-Rom.
"Until now video and television choreography has been limited to
re-enactments of how dance is performed on stage," he says.
"Ideally, the computer can bring a new palette where, for
example, dances can be performed on a leaf of a painting on the
ceiling of a renaissance cathedral. That could be so much more of a
creative form of art, particularly suited to video and
At the workshop, the 12 professional choreographers will be flanked by
12 "digital artists" familiar with the LifeForms computer
software as well as other artistic publishing packages such as
Director, multimedia and animations authoring software.
Apple UK, the workshop's official sponsor, has donated 12 computers,
including the Power Macintosh, its most powerful PC.
Together, the teams aim to compile dances on the computers which can
then be performed in real life.
Braun also sees the emergence of digital dancing as a way to integrate
modem, more "hip" forms of dance into the traditional world
of orthodox ballet.
"Modem Jazz, Acid House and Rap are younger forms of dance that
can be brought together using digital art forms. For example, the
electronic music world, which uses a language called "midi",
could be made compatible with a program such as LifeForms. There is no
end to the possibilities," he says.
It would also be possible for teams of digital dancers, choreographers
and artists to work on multimedia computer, video, or TV art
regardless of where they were in the world.
"The other great virtue of the digital world is that ideas can be
worked on simultaneously using a computer or telephone network.
Sharing ideas and swapping movements could become commonplace among
dance artists in the future," he says.
Braun hopes that this weekend's workshop will be the beginning of a
series of similar events, and that the calibre of top dancers
attending may persuade the Arts Council to set aside funds to develop
the concept of digital dancing.
"Clearly, there is so much we could do," he says, "and
I see no reason why we shouldn't receive a subsidy in the same way as
more orthodox forms of art."
PASSAGE # 1 carefully and decide which of the following statements are
TRUE (T) or FALSE (F).
LifeForms enables artists to
create virtual choreographies without the need of a stage or dancers.
With the use of LifeForms
choreographers can make up movements the human body cannot produce.
Braun is hoping to convince
the Arts Council that this new art form should be subsidized.
Although digital dancing
opens up a lot of possibilities in choreography, it can only be used
to design new dances.
One of the advantages of digital dancing is that
artists will be able to collaborate with one another just by using a
computer or a telephone.
It is not yet clear whether
it will be possible for the dances designed on the computer to be
performed by real dancers.
The fact that very few top
choreographers attended the digital dance workshop might spoil Terry
The choreographers will be
working side by side with digital artists who are already familiar
with new software.
As LifeForms is compatible
with modern electronic music new forms of music could be integrated into the traditional world of orthodox
Apple UK provided the
computers that were used in the workshop.
PASSAGE # 1 carefully and choose the most suitable ending (a, b,
or c) for these sentences.
the new digital dancing programme, was developed
at the South Bank Centre in
b) at the Computer Graphics Research Laboratory in Canada.
c) at Apple Mac in the UK.
a) one of the 12
top choreographers who attended the workshop.
b) a film director who was in charge of the workshop at the
Royal Festival Hall.
c) the digital artist who developed the software for digital
12 choreographers who attended the workshop
a) had already
worked together using computers to design new movements.
b) had used the computer to create new movements and
choreographies on video and TV.
c) were not familiar with the potential there is in the new
READY TO REGULATE BACK-STREET FUR FARMS
The wire cages stand in
rows, each housing a solitary fox which paces its mesh floor in
silence. These are Arctic foxes, resplendent in silver-grey fur, but they are far from their native polar wilderness. Their home
is a compound, surrounded by rusting sheets of corrugated iron, on a
council estate in Bradford.
For seven years John Lalor has
kept a fur farm at the bottom of the garden behind his
pebble-dashed semi-detached house, to the bewilderment of his
neighbours. The animals are dispatched on the spot by injection and
their pelts sold as far afield as Leipzig for £20 apiece.
The Royal Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has paid six visits but found
no evidence to justify a prosecution. Lalor, who was convicted last
year of stabbing one of his sons, does as he pleases on the farm: the
law does not even require him to seek a licence.
This week a government body
will propose new restrictions which, if adopted, could mean the
closure of all but a handful. of Britain's remaining fur farms and
would almost certainly put back-street enterprises such as Lalor's out
The Farm Animal Welfare
Council, which advises the agriculture ministry, is understood to have
agreed on Thursday that such farms should be licensed by local
authorities. Animals would have to be kept in large enough enclosures
with "suitable" lighting, ventilation and drainage. The
recommendation, which appears in a confidential report to Angela
Browning, the junior agriculture minister, follows a 10-year
campaign by the animal welfare lobby. This includes models such as
Yasmin Le Bon and fashion designers, from Sir Hardy Amies to
Vivienne Westwood, who have campaigned to banish fur from the high
street and eliminate the fur industry.
The number of mink farms - which, unlike those rearing foxes, must obtain a licence from
the agriculture ministry - has fallen sharply from its peak of
more than 70 to 11. No official records exist to indicate how many
small-scale fox farms there may be. Official thinking on the
farms' methods appears to have hardened just as sales of fur have
begun to recover. It is nearly two years since a mink farmer's libel
action bankrupted Lynx, the anti-fur campaign.
The group's demise gave fresh heart to fur enthusiasts who had hidden
their coats away in response to slogans such as, "It takes 40
dumb animals to make a fur coat but only one to wear it”. A growing
number of designers now incorporate fur into their outfits, and in
Moscow last week the Queen wore a favourite 47-year-old mink coat.
Nicholas Soames, Browning's predecessor as agriculture minister, called
fur farming "a disagreeable business". He invited
representatives of the anti-fur group, Respect for Animals, to
his office and asked the advisory council to consider its idea of
regulating such farms as zoos.
The council is thought to have rejected this but recommended that Arctic
foxes and mink be listed under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1976, which would force their owners to
provide accommodation of "suitable" construction and size,
permitting "adequate exercise".
Sir Colin Spedding, chairman of the council, refused to confirm its advice to the minister but said:
'We feel that it's
inappropriate to farm wild animals in this way in confinement and that
it would be very difficult to design suitable accommodation that could
possibly be economic."
Respect for Animals said it would welcome any move to put welfare before
the farmers' financial interests. The RSPCA, however, predicted that
the biggest mink farms would survive.
This weekend. Danny Swarij, who keeps 10,000 mink under licence at
Swalesmoor, West Yorkshire, said he would stay in business if it
proved economic to make changes.
acknowledged that the restrictions could shut his farm. "I don't
know whether I will be carrying on with this," he said.
PASSAGE # 2 above carefully and identify the paragraph in which we find out ...
asked an anti-fur group for advice on how to regulate fur-farms.
what may happen if the new
restrictions proposed are adopted.
how animals would have to be
kept on the farms licensed by the local authorities.
why the number of mink farms
has dropped so dramatically.
how animals are killed in
why Lynx has stopped campaigning.
what the head of the
advisory council thinks about farming wild animals.
what some fashion designers
and models have been doing for the last 10 years.
what made some fashion
designers change their minds and begin to incorporate furinto
why the RSCPA has failed to
convict John Lalor.
YOU CAN CHECK THE ANSWERS TO THIS EXAM AT THE END OF PART II.