Developing vocabularies for dance education

March’18 workshops with CODARTS in Rotterdam

Florian Jenett
Jun 16, 2018 · 6 min read

As part of the Creative Europe project DANCE ON, PASS ON, DREAM ON (DOPODO) led by Diehl+Ritter, Motion Bank has been testing and researching the use of its own web systems “Piecemaker” and “MoSys” for documenting and transmitting dance knowledge. A large field of use within the project is the teaching at CODARTS in Rotterdam, one of the major schools of European dance education. From March 12–14, 2018, the latest progress and developments in the cooperation between Motion Bank and CODARTS were tested and discussed in workshops. This was preceded by the first meetings with teachers and students in February and June 2017, during which the possibilities of digital tools and the associated methods in everyday teaching at CODARTS were discussed. The focus was on passing on knowledge and experience from one generation to the next. Discussions with Dance Therapy, Dance Education and the Dance Department were based on Motion Bank’s previous work with video annotation of dance and the Piecemaker application. The web application Piecemaker was taken over by Motion Bank from the Forsythe Company and dancer David Kern in 2010–2014. It has since been further developed, but is currently undergoing another revision, which not only implements the latest web technology, but also takes into account the requirements of CODARTS and other partners.

Piecemaker currently supports two basic ways of working: live annotation and post annotation. With live annotation, a video can be recorded in the studio and at the same time annotations can be written to a web document. Video and annotations are synchronized and linked via a timestamp¹. If you select one of the annotations later on, the corresponding moment in the video is displayed. The other way around annotations are shown while playing back the video. Live annotation is characterized by the writer not looking at a video, but writing while he or she observes the events in space. Only after recording are annotations and videos displayed side by side and the annotations can then be edited or supplemented. When annotations are added later, we speak of post annotation. In Piecemaker both modes are supported: you can either start a live annotation session or create new post annotations in relation to previously recorded material. Piecemaker not only allows the integration of self recorded videos from the dance studio, but also from hosting platforms such as Vimeo or YouTube, which can then also be annotated.

Preview of Piecemaker version 3 that is currently under development and will be used to annotate dance at CODARTS and by other partners of Motion Bank

Both scenarios, live annotation and post annotation are relevant for teaching at CODARTS in order to have an analytical view of the class or to give feedback by means of a video. Feedback can be passed on not only from teachers to the students, but also by students to each other. As Piecemaker is an online application, it enables collaborative work and people can give remote feedback on video recordings and add annotations. This is an option that is of great interest to many teachers and students at CODARTS, for example to involve experts who cannot work with students on site. But it also makes it possible for a teacher to observe a dance class “live”, during which individual feedback can be recorded in form of annotations and passed on later to the respective students. This seemed to have great potential. During the workshops at CODARTS in March 2018, these ideas for using video annotation in dance education were tested directly in class. Especially with live annotation, central questions of the method were discussed: what should one record if the process of writing comments is lagging behind the speed of what happens in the dance classroom? For this one might want to have a method for quickly marking a moment in the video to come back to later? Isn’t wandering the attention and selective focusing part of the dance observer position? Do you focus on something in particular or do you try to capture as much as possible? The central topic for both live annotation and post annotation, however, was the vocabulary one works with, the vocabulary that already exists and that still needs to be found to write and talk about what is happening in class. With regard to the Motion Bank applications, possibilities were also discussed as to how a predefined vocabulary can be applied quickly and easily (for example in the form of tags), but also how it can be created dynamically without ending up with rigid categories. If there is no existing taxonomy (e.g. LMA, Health Assessment, etc.) then other conventions can be developed from inside the team. Tags also have a role in the later evaluation of annotations, for example by filtering annotations, but they also help to organise the video/ annotation information space.

Alumni students live annotating a Dance Education class at CODARTS Rotterdam using Piecemaker²

For the evaluation and further work with the results of live annotation and post annotation, CODARTS will also use the second component of the motion bank systems: MoSys makes it possible to arrange material from Piecemaker in the browser, i.e. videos with the associated annotations. MoSys offers a flexible grid with any number of so-called “cells”. The cells can also show other videos from the web, images, texts or web content. This makes it easy to create small web pages with the corresponding content. In the case of CODARTS, for example, teachers can annotate videos recorded in class and then place the video with the annotations on such a website and send the link to the relevant students. Access can be regulated in such a way that only authorized persons have permission to access and view the content assembled by teachers or students. As in Piecemaker, the MoSys website allows you to view annotations and video side by side and to go to the corresponding moment in the video by selecting an annotation. MoSys also allows students to further comment on existing annotations in the form of questions or their own comments. In this way, a dialogue between students and teachers can develop on the basis of the video. Students can also add their own videos or create entire grids of content for which they wish to receive feedback. Collections can be created that can be preserved as personal or shared resources or made publicly accessible to students.

Preview of the current MoSys development showing the gird in editing mode

The workshop on March 14th with students and teachers of the Dance Education department impressively showed how the method of live annotation in the classroom and the immediate discussion of the annotations enabled an intensive exchange and an analytical approach to teaching methods and strategies. Motion Bank will continue the developments for CODARTS in the coming months and closely monitor its use in teaching and explore the associated working methods. Motion Bank hopes to gain decisive insights into the transfer of bodily and dance-related knowledge with the help of digital methods such as those made possible by the Motion Bank systems.

Listen to the Codarts Podcast with Jaco van den Dool, Scott deLahunta and Florian Jenett:

¹ Motion Bank was setting up an experimental recording solution for the workshop at CODARTS that made it possible to immediately see the video with the corresponding annotation on a local network without any further processing or uploading.

² They are annotating Ben Bergmans, contemporary jazz teacher. Bergmans had been asked to provide some keywords/concepts prior to the session. The students were divided up and asked to look specifically at different aspects, e.g. space, rhythm, etc.

Motion Bank

Research from the Motion Bank project

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