Technology Oriented Dance Performance Allows Audience to Participate

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Champaign -

When you attend an event at the theater, you're typically told to turn your phone off. However, at the University of Illinois, the tables have been turned.  

The art of dance is ever changing, much like technology. Now, the University of Illinois Dance Department is bringing both mediums together with an interactive app.

"If you go to the theater now, you see people are always on their phones, and it's hard to get them off their phones so they have split focus,” said John Toenjes. “Since we are able to direct the audience focus to the phone I am actually re-capturing that split focus and keeping it on the dance.”

Toenjes and LA-based choreographer Chad Michael Hall created Critical Mass, a technology oriented modern dance.

"When something gets a critical mass of people that like it tends to go viral,” says Toenjes.  “It's kind of like nuclear technology, where you need a critical mass of material to form a nuclear explosion."

The dance is interactive. Audience members can use their phone and download the app to send a text message or a picture, and it will show up on the cube which is consider the hub of the performance.

"During the show, one of the idea that people had for an app was to explain what’s going on in modern dance, because a lot of time modern dance concerts can be confusing,” Toenjes explains.

The app also allows audience members to change the course of the performance.

"The cube actually has a voice, added Toenjes. "Depending upon which one is in the lead at a certain time, then the cube will say attention most people have voted for duet whatever, please direction your attention to that duet."

"We tried to connect the two and let people be on their phones while we were dancing and immerse them in this world that we've created," said Lauren Mendelson, a dancer in the piece.

Generating a new way to share and enjoy the art of dance.

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