Senior shares dance floor with GoPro camera for senior thesis

Media Credit: Arielle Bader | Hatchet Photographer

Linda Ryan, a senior majoring in dance, and freshman Trevor Frantz choreographed a project with three dancers and a GoPro camera to capture their movements.

Linda Ryan’s senior honors thesis “Go!” is far from your usual 40-page paper. She has spent months developing a live dance number that will be performed with live projections from a GoPro camera on the wall behind performers.

Ryan, a senior majoring in dance, said the project is unusual because the camera is not only used to film, but also plays an active role in the routine. During the more than 20-minute performance, which features three dancers, one GoPro captures movement and shows the performance from a different angle.

“Go!” will be presented at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design’s NEXT senior exhibition in early May and will feature Ryan and two other cast members, freshmen Trevor Frantz and Emily Ritter, as they incorporate the GoPro in every part of the routine. Some of the performance has the camera anchored to the dancers’ bodies, while other moments have fixed filming as they crawl or twirl around it.

“It’s basically a piece about the way we interact with technology and with other people,” Ryan said.

“I thought the concept of dancing with technology was really original.”

Ryan worked as both the choreographer and film director in designing each frame of the performance through a year of trial and error. The GoPro captures dozens of perspectives not traditionally seen by audiences, including close-ups of the dancers’ faces while in motion, or mid-air flight when Ryan throws the small device to her partners.

Ryan said she intends to play with vulnerability and comfort zones through the use of movement and the “personas” the dancers embody. The performance requires the three dancers and the device to work in sync, and it can be a challenge to feel natural when caught in the camera frame.

“When I first started working with it, I was seeing so much of my body up so close and seeing everything about it that maybe I didn’t want to see,” she said.

Audiences can view the routine up-close through planned projections or on Ryan’s live Periscope, an app where you can stream footage from anywhere in real time.

Ryan said the footage will show dance from every possible viewpoint so the audience can watch the routine in the most personal way possible.

Frantz and Ritter, Ryan’s castmates, participated in a general audition in January to be featured in dance shows this semester. But after four months of rehearsal, they said that “Go!” is a new experience, with the inclusion of the camera setting it apart from other dance numbers.

“I thought the concept of dancing with technology was really original,” Ritter said. “Dancing with the GoPro is like having a fourth dancer in the piece, because you always have to be aware of where it is and what it’s seeing.”

Ryan’s experience helped her conduct movement research as she spent hours testing the cameras and trying different moves and angles throughout last semester. Nineteen years in ballet, tap and jazz allowed Ryan to work in a mixture of traditional and modern styles, while remaining open to the ideas of her dance partners.

“Linda is an amazing choreographer who allows Trevor and I to put in our input on how to make the piece work for us,” Ritter said. “Having the opportunity to choreograph and be creative helps make the piece fit all of our individual styles.”

The dancer’s choreography is influenced by her curriculum, which focuses on genres of modern and postmodern dance. The cameras often highlight her personal love of the two genres, favoring her love of floorwork and abrupt changes in movement. In one segment where the GoPro is strapped to a dancer’s wrist, the intricate choreography made by their arms causes the camera to shift with their movement.

“The beginning of the piece is all on the floor. We don’t even stand up until I think a minute and a half in,” Ryan said. “You’re going to see changes in dynamism like that, where you’re moving very slowly and then very abruptly.”

Although Ryan is a lifelong dancer, her family of computer scientists influenced her admiration of technology and why she decided to combine the two.

“I have a background in the arts but I also have a background in tech,” Ryan said. “This kind of came as a natural product of that.”

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