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Digital Dancing

Ethan Brown (VMS), Kate Rafter (AUTOMAL)
Main Stage
Portland Ballroom
Average rating: ****.
(4.00, 5 ratings)
Slides:   1-PPT 

You check out the schedule, and you note with excitement that there’s a presentation called DIGITAL DANCING. You grab your stuff and head for that conference room.

As you take your seat, two presenters take the stage. The nerdier of the two announces “what you’re about to see is choreographed; but not in the traditional sense. Thanks to some incredible hardware, and the open source software that powers it, the images being projected are actually reacting to the dancer’s movements; this is not a carefully synchronized video, but a real-time production. Without further ado….” As the presenter’s words trail off, the lights dim, and the dancer takes her place in front of the projection screen and then something magical happens….

The dance is mesmerizing: digitally constructed shapes hinting at birds swoop and gather, as if they were moving along with the dancer’s beautiful performance. When the dance concludes, you erupt into applause along with the rest of the audience.

What follows is a fascinating discussion of the technology, from the open source Kinect drivers to the animation algorithms. At the end of the presentation, the dancer talks about her role in the project; how she choreographed the dance, and worked with the programmer to create images and animations that fit with her vision.

Feeling inspired to creative movement your own self, you take advantage of the Q&A session to ask the dancer if there’s somewhere she recommends that you can go dancing while you’re in Portland. She laughs, and lists several wonderful sounding clubs. You decide to check out a latin dance club she recommended, and head back to the hotel to change into your dancing shoes….

Photo of Ethan Brown

Ethan Brown


I work for Pop Art, an interactive marketing agency, doing mostly back-end website work. A lot of my current work is in C#/.NET, but I am shifting a lot of my attention to the Node.js stack (check out my projects on NPM!). My undergraduate work was in mathematics and computer science, and I have a broad and diverse background in software technologies.

Photo of Kate Rafter

Kate Rafter


As a choreographer and interdisciplinary performance artist, Kate Rafter has presented work at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Scotland’s Dance Base, Portland’s Fertile Ground Festival, Conduit, American College Dance Festival NW, the Dance Coalition of Oregon, (a)merging 2014, and the Someday:Incubator. She heads Automal, a project-based indie dance company.

Kate’s performing arts ambitions go beyond dance and theatre conventions to include audience interactivity, immersive environments, and an intent to break every wall, starting with the fourth.