The primary work of the project involves exploring the physical, creative and choreographable possibilities that emerged between a dancer and a piloted, programmable drone. Choreography is an art of change and as research progressed, it became clear that the wind produced by the drone’s propellers could become an important means for producing theatrical change. Relatedly, the drone could also become a mobile light source by attaching a tactical flashlight. The principal challenge involved working around the drone’s GPS and visual navigation systems. By taking the drone inside and turning off the lights we were able to “blind” it to GPS and undermine its optical navigation system. This allowed us to create a situation where the dancer could influence the flight path and speed of the drone by throwing it. However, being in a dark room with a drone creates obvious risks and our solutions created further performance complications -- and possibilities. The tactical flashlight now made the drone a blinding as well as drifting light source. Necessitating the dancer to wear dark glasses and gloves to gauge the location and speed of the drone and to avoid the propellers when handling in mid-flight. Wearing dark glasses in a dark room, while protecting one from the glare of the drone, also forced the dancer to rely on other sense besides vision to remain oriented in space.
This grant facilitated Eric Handman’s third project exploring the performance potential of drones with dancers. These explorations fit within his ongoing research into the nature of Choreographic Thinking and the varieties of its application.
While there are a few dance artists working periodically with drones, most have followed a model involving theaters that rely on motion capture systems to control the drones. This makes sense form a liability standpoint. Control is of the utmost importance for performer and audience safety. However, most theaters are not outfitted with costly motion capture systems, and to rely on such would undermine the nomadic intentions and capabilities of the project. The point of our project was to create a modular, nomadic system of technologically enhanced dance-theater that would be relatively inexpensive, using consumer-grade tech. Part of the next stage of our research is to locate those production partners who have the facilities and interest to premiere this form of hybrid arts-tech, and to ensure the robustness of our safety precautions.
Frame how your project advances your research and is a development for your field. Identify research gaps in your field.
I would like to see greater interaction between dance and digital fields that want to explore the creative capacities of the body, and the affective potential on players (and audiences) of coordinating moving objects in 2D, 3D and virtual spaces. Obvious partners would be animation, 2D and 3D game design, as well as projects involving VR, AR and XR.
Choreography is an art of change and as research progressed, it became clear that the wind produced by the drone’s propellers could become an important means for producing theatrical change.–Eric Handman, Fall 2022 Exhibition & Performance DM Faculty Grantee