University Dance Group Uses Twitter, Wii for Latest Performances

Washington and Lee University dancers Anna Rogers (kneeling), Stephanie Brown (standing, left), Jennifer Ritter (standing, center) and Hannah Kate Mitchell pose with Wii remotes, which they used to transfer their motions into sounds during several performances.

Kevin Remington/Washington and Lee University

Performance halls usually frown on patrons whipping out their phones to check Twitter in the middle of an event.

But at a dance concert at Washington and Lee University, using Twitter isn’t just allowed; it’s encouraged.

During a set of performances at the university at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday, the W&L Repertory Dance Company will have a student running a live Twitter feed with context and commentary for dance pieces. One performance will also feature dancers using Wii remote controllers to create the music accompanying the piece. William H. Meadows, a composer from Austin, Tex., created software to use the Wii remotes and work with performers.

It has opened students up “to the idea of technology and the arts, how they can sort of augment one another,” said Jenefer Davies, an assistant professor of dance and artistic director of the repertory company. “It’s created a great excitement because they’ve never seen anything like this before.”

Ms. Davies said she has wondered for years how to better engage audiences in dance pieces. Wii remotes added an interesting element to dance performances, she said, and Twitter was the perfect opportunity to interact with the concertgoers.

“Because dance in general involves very little text and is very absolute, audiences can feel excluded from the process,” Ms. Davies said. “I think audiences are interested in how dance came about, the inspirations involved, and the thematic material.”

The repertory completed one recital last night. Stephanie Brown, one of the dancers in the Wii-remotes piece, said she has already received quite a bit of positive feedback about the concert as a whole. She believes the Wii-remotes piece went over well, too.

“I think it took people by surprise in a really good way,” Ms. Brown said.

Anna Rogers, another repertory dancer in the Wii piece, said she was initially skeptical about participating in such a different type of dance. But she has learned that dance is anything that involves movement and that a performance with Wii may draw a new type of audience.

“Maybe it’s going to bring someone to a concert that wouldn’t be there in the first place,” Ms. Rogers said. ” … then I think our purpose has been served.”

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