[radical] Signs of Life (2013)

in collaboration with Heidi Boisvert and an international team of artists, [radical] Signs of Life is a large-scale biophysical dance show.

Through responsive dance, the piece externalizes the mind’s non-hierarchical distribution of thought. Media is generated from dancers’ muscles & blood flow via biophysical sensors that capture soundwaves from the performers’ muscular tissue. The choreography for the hour-long performance is composed in real-time by five dancers from a shared movement database in accordance with pre-determined rules based on principles of self-organizing systems. Outfitted with two wireless sensors each, the dancers–Jennifer Mellor, Ellen Smith Ahern, Hanna Satterlee, Avi Waring and Willow Wonder–create patterns that dissolve from autonomous polyrhythms to intersecting lines as they slip through generative video and light. Van Nort improvises original multi-channel electroacoustic music live in collaboration with new interactive dancer/sound instruments that he has created (using Xth sense technology), to sculpt a dense web of complex texture and emotion around the audience.

Regarding my interactive composition for this project:

All sound is generated from the dancers’ muscles. During performance, the qualities and patterns of the sonic gestural output from each dancer are learned/remembered by an interactive system. Near the conclusion, the stage lighting goes down and I improvise with this material towards an ending to the hour-long piece.

[radical] premiered at EMPAC (NY), the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center in May 2013 through generous support from the Arts Department at Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute along with iEAR Studios. Rehearsal space has been granted through an Artist Residency at the Contemporary Dance & Fitness Center in Montpelier, VT. The project was realised thanks to the Creativity + Technology = Enterprise grant, awarded by Harvestworks through funds from the Rockerfeller Foundation’s New York City Cultural Innovation Fund and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Director & Producer // Heidi Boisvert
Choreographer // Pauline Jennings
Music/Sound Designer // Doug Van Nort
Visual Designer // Raven Kwok
Lighting & Set Designer // Allen Hahn
Costume Designer // Amy Nielson
Xth Sense Creator // Marco Donnarumma
Wireless Network Engineer // MJ Caselden
Industrial Designer // Krystal Persaud
Set Fabricator // John Umphlett
Dancers // Jennifer Mellor, Ellen Smith Ahern, Hanna Satterlee, Avi Waring & Willow Wonder

Additional Reference:

Van Nort, D. [radical] signals from life: from muscle sensing to embodied machine listening/learning within a large-scale performance piece, in Proceedings of the 2nd International Workshop on Movement and Computing (MOCO), ACM, 2015.