Dance, Puppet!

for Long Winter 2021

‘Dance, Puppet!’ is an animated, digital ballet in which the main character is controlled in real time through sound.  The character and set are created through a mix of digital painting and generative coding with TouchDesigner and Notch.

Set in a series of short dances, the story follows the puppet dancer and its desire for greater expression through dance.  The concept is based on the life of Loie Fuller, an American dancer who rejected the traditionalism of ballet and helped developed the modern dance style.  The music, which is an improvised piece on violin,  mirrors Fuller’s rejection of traditional ballet by emphasizing the use of improvisation and extended techniques instead of traditional classical composition.  Much like the improvisational qualities of the music, the puppet dancer will create its own generative choreography according to the musical gestures it hears. In other words, the music controls how the dancer moves.  This creates a digital character that can express itself based on predefined rules and continues the legacy of Loie Fuller in the digital space.

‘ Dance, Puppet!’ is a generative application created in TouchDesigner.  The violin improvisation recording is firstly analyzed in its entirety to create the procedural geometry for the dancer’s body.  As the performance begins, elements of the music, such as frequency and amplitude are analyzed in real time and trigger specific movements of the puppet dancer and change the environment.  Throughout the performance, rule sets created in the Python programming language alter the ranges and movements of the puppet dancer.