As a passionate choreographer, David Middendorp has become a unique visionary in knowing how to seamlessly and harmoniously merge the ostensibly opposing elements of dance and technology – creating a surreal world that sits between reality and its alternates. Middendorp is fascinated by technology, and especially in the tension that arises between technology and man. Technological innovation brings us significant developments, but also brings large amounts of friction, misunderstanding and opportunities for abuse. Man, full of imagination and emotion, appears the polar opposite of cold, unemotional technological developments, such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and drones. But is this diametrical opposition truly present, or does technology have more in common with man than we tend to believe?
This latter question is central to Middendorp’s work. In extraordinary and exploratory ways, he allows animations, drones, robots, film and music to stand on the same level – and so play a similarly large role in the performances – as the dancers. “Dance and technology emerge from the same source: the desire of man to create alternative realities”.
To show how these projects are developed and the research that they are based on, this part of the website takes you behind the scenes. Here, you can read up on how the choreographies for Newton’s Duet, Airman and the latest production AI-man developed the interaction with drones, and what was involved in creating HandsON – the new choreography in virtual reality.
Dance & AI (Newton's Duet and AI-man)
Currently, Another Kind of Blue is fully pre-occupied with developing AI-man (Artificial Intelligence-man), a choreography aptly described as a duet between free will and artificial intelligence.
AI-man builds on the knowledge obtained for the projects Newton’s Duet (2015-2016) and Airman (2018-2019), both of which developed the novel tools to work with drones controlled in real time. Where Newton’s Duet created an intriguing dialogue between two dancers and two drones, Airman was a duet between one dancer and twelve drones. In Airman, the dancer was equipped with a special motion capture suit full of sewn-in motion sensors; the impulses of which could be captured by the drones and were translated into motion impulses via special algorithms. Through this system, the drones could respond to the movements of the dancer. Those movements were fixed: the dancer lead, and the drones faithfully followed the dancer’s previously rehearsed movements. The whole created a magical yet alienating duet that raised the question to what extent the drones possessed a form of free will. Free will in its confrontation with artificial intelligence is the philosophical theme Middendorp is keen to investigate; and has been exploring through his choreographies.
In AI-man, Middendorp continues building on his research into the relationships between man, machine and free will. The ultimate step to lift things to the next level is the creation of a drone figure: the ‘AI-man’, a human figure created by a swarm of drones. Through providing this figure with artificial intelligence, we give it a certain measure of independence to make its own decisions. The question is whether the artificial intelligence of AI-man will be large enough to support dance with a human without outside involvement, taking control of their role in this creative dialogue in movement. Will the large number of electromagnetic waves used for this performance – ranging from infrared for the Motion Capture System to visible light and WIFI – lead to an evocative and live duet between man and machine, or to a short circuited relationship?
The technology used for this performance is being developed in collaboration with students from TU Delft, and is supported by the fund ‘Stimuleringsfonds voor de Creatieve Industrie’.
For his most recently released piece, HandsON (2020), David Middendorp explored the possibilities of incorporating virtual reality into choreography. The enchanting result has been widely lauded, yet this beautiful piece took many years of research. For a couple of years onwards David Middendorp has been examining the possibility of incorporating virtual reality into dance performances. This search eventually resulted in HandsON, a unique first exploration into combining these two extraordinary elements.
Leading roles in this innovative choreography are given to hands. Every human has picked up a set of hand movements with which they, consciously or unconsciously, mirror their emotions. With this in mind, Middendorp created ‘hand choreographies’ with the dancers at AKOB to form the backbone of this new performance. These choreographies have slowly, step by step, been adapted into choreographies using the entire body, enabling dancers to dance along, or dance duets, with the animated hands. The Motion Capture System enables the dancers to dance not only with each other, but also through animations with the hands – creating a life-sized synchronicity and collaboration between dancer and hands. Aided by VR-glasses you enter a world that has been created by hand sculptures; a world you can not only see, but entirely immerse yourself in.