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April 25, 2005

UCSC, NYU join in cutting-edge dance/theater collaboration

By Scott Rappaport

Lubricious Transfer--an ambitious dance experiment in live, transcontinental collaboration using the Internet—was broadcast simultaneously earlier this month to audiences at UCSC’s Experimental Theater and New York University’s Frederick Loewe Theater.

Students, staff, and faculty at both universities worked together on the project.
Photos: Jim MacKenzie

The April 15 and 16 performances were the culmination of a distance arts education project undertaken by an interdisciplinary mix of students, staff, and faculty at both universities. The result was an interactive, real-time performance where UCSC dancers performed in front of three “liquid screens,” upon which live images of the New York University dancers were simultaneously projected.

The project was conceived by new UCSC assistant theater arts professor Ted Warburton and carried out in his movement research class last quarter. UCSC’s technical staff provided the expertise and instruction that eventually enabled students to run all of the technical aspects of the performances.

“I believe this is the first course in the U.S. to offer students both the opportunity to perform and to acquire the technical knowledge necessary to produce this type of event,” noted Warburton. “We had both groups of performers on opposite sides of the country working together—interconnected and interdependent—using advanced telecommunications for artistic collaborative purposes.”

Warburton has danced professionally with American Ballet Theatre and holds a doctoral degree in psychology from Harvard, as well as a master’s in technology.

He came to UCSC last summer from New York University, where he served as the director of its dance program. As a result, he invited Ben Munisteri, an award-winning choreographer who recently decided to attend graduate school at NYU, to collaborate from New York. Together, they set up a series of videoconferencing sessions to help create the event.

“There is a strong research component to this project,” added Warburton. “We’re interested in how students’ perceptions of technology change and whether the technology is inhibiting or enabling creativity.”

“There is not much research on distance education and zero research on arts distance education,” he noted. “This is a new genre of art, and we are doing creative research pushing the boundaries of the dance discipline.”

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