Networked Production To Link Artists, Scientists In Performance

Published: November 8 2001

Category:Arts, Engineering, Research, Sciences

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — An international music-and-dance performance set for next week will seek to draw together artists and engineers separated not only by thousands of miles but also by the traditional cultural divide between art and science.

Appropriately, “Dancing Beyond Boundaries,” which will rely on the ultra-high bandwidth Internet2 network and other emerging technologies, will be based at the SuperComputing Global conference in Denver. An annual fixture of the conference, which draws engineers and scientists from around the world, is the temporary construction of one of the world’s fastest computer networks. “Dancing Beyond Boundaries” creates a network of another kind, using the latest technology to craft a performance based on the talents of choreographers, dancers, musicians, computer scientists, engineers and others across the nation and in South America.

The production is being spearheaded and coordinated by the University of Florida’s Digital Worlds Institute, which is devoted to nurturing collaborative research and education in engineering and the arts to develop digital technology and culture.

“My hope is to exponentially expand both the notion of ‘network content’ and ‘network collaboration’ with an experimental arts experience,” said James Oliverio, director of the institute. “While many have been talking about collaboration at distances, we are going to do it in such a way that it will be a complex, evolving process, much like what happens when artists get together in one place and really start to work.”

The dozens of people recruited in advance for the production will “meet” Monday morning via Internet2 access points in Denver and at the University of Florida, the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and the University of Campinas near Sao Paolo, Brazil. Mestre Boca, a world-renowned percussionist in Brazil, will provide what Oliverio called the artistic and metaphorical foundation of the project: the drum beat.

“The drum has been a means of communication at a distance since time immemorial,” Oliverio said. “Call and response, music, movement and dance evolved from this marking of rhythm, and so, for this production, we’re beginning with this same primal expression and expanding its reach across two continents.”

Minneapolis-based choreographers Danial Shapiro and Joanie Smith will guide the shaping of the production with assistance from Florida-based classical guitarist Welson Tremura and dancers in each city. The piece will culminate with a premier on Thursday, the last day of the conference, by two Denver-based dancers in conjunction with “virtual” dancers participating in real time from Minneapolis and Gainesville. Conference attendees will be able to see the Denver dancers in the flesh, but anyone with an Internet connection can watch not only the production, but also rehearsals, through a dedicated Web site at

Oliverio said engineers and computer scientists at each location have already built the technical infrastructure for the production, using a new multipoint video-conferencing system called the Access Grid as the backbone. Contributors include Florida’s Northeast Regional Data Center, which will provide network services, and the Partnership for Global Learning, which has provided cultural linkages between North and South America.

Television production studios at WUFT at UF’s College of Journalism and Communications are geared up to receive, mix and process streaming video during rehearsals and the performance. Additionally, Minerva Networks of California also has contributed video networking products to enable the delivery of broadcast-quality audio and video service.

The work of the scientists and engineers will continue during the production. They and other technologists, such as animators and videographers, will help shape the final work, contributing as equals with the artists, Oliverio said.

“Both the technological infrastructure and the artistic content of ‘Dancing Beyond Boundaries’ will be a unified vessel,” Oliverio said. “And this vessel will be filled with the potential of what can be done when we really collaborate with one another all around our spinning planet.”


Aaron Hoover,
James Oliverio

Category:Arts, Engineering, Research, Sciences