January 14, 2023


by Kelly Ruth

Exploring Dance in virtual worlds with movement artists has been really fascinating and satisfying for me. I’m curious about how humans adopt technology, and the dancers have certainly presented thoughts that I had not considered along the way. We have had some really big wins in the process as far as I am concerned. Working with Moment Discovery has been great since they helped demystify some of the technology and supported in writing code for the work we did testing the new motion capture beta project being developed by Linden Labs the owners of Second Life. The software still has a ways to go before live dance is fully possible in Second Life, but we got to participate in the beginning and get a sense of what will be possible in the future. Dancer eryn tempest learned how to upload into Second Life an avatar and animations that they have been making in their own art practice. It was wonderful for me to witness them learning the platform and realizing ways that they can use it for their own work. 

We have only scratched the surface regarding movement in worlds accessed by headsets, but much of our time was spent learning what tech is needed to set up a studio at MZD in order to keep exploring this work. It’s very exciting to be doing this work before the big shift to immersive computing. This time in history mirrors when the internet first arrived in the 90’s. Right now we have a sort of wild west of the internet available to us that we can engage with and observe. There are new virtual worlds popping up all the time, some of which have full body capability. I look forward to seeing which worlds rise to the top of creative engagement. Not all are great for art makers, not all are great for dancers. My curiosity lies within learning the systems in many of the worlds and being able to determine what each of them can be used for in terms of creative practices. I think our world is changing at a remarkable speed and I am both terrified and enamored by technology. I think it is critical that artists and arts organizations pay close attention and adapt.

For now we have built a virtual dance studio for MZD in Second Life which is a great place to study the history of the virtual world community and creative output. The scripting there is accessible enough for artists to create 3D work and animations that can be exhibited inside the world. MZD looks forward to doing more work in VRChat as well as other platforms that have full body motion capture capabilities. We hope to meet others across the globe doing this work and continue to empower dancers to open up their practices to this emerging medium. 

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