Return to the days of MIDI-controlled LaserDisc players – Mark Coniglio, creator of Isadora, walks through this history of the work of Troika Ranch. It’s an incredible microcosm of where dance tech has come for – but you can do stuff today with Isadora, too, like finding a use for that Nintendo Wiimote.

Mark’s company Troika Ranch with choreographer and co-founder Dawn Marie Stoppiello was ground-breaking in its mix of interactive performance, dance, and electronic media. And Mark is best known to the media world as the creator behind Isadora (not to mention an innovative tool called Interactor, even earlier). So this is a treat – a walk down memory lane for some, but an introduction to “dance-tech archaeology” for everyone else.

And if you’re not familiar with these techniques with LaserDisc and motors and whatnot, it might well spawn some fresh ways of approaching the tools you’ve got now.

Mentioned in the video (there’s more detail if you scroll through the chatlog):

Interactive Video – MIDI Controlled LaserDisc Player
From “In Plane” (2004)

Interactive Motor Control – Moving Projector
From “In Plane” (2004)

Interactive Motor Control – Light Sculpture
From “The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkruetz” (2000)

Sandy Cam & Other Wireless Video – SandyCam
From “Vera’s Body” (1999)

Sandy Cam & Other Wireless Video – HeadCam
From “The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkruetz” (2000)

MidiDancer Solo
From “In Plane” (1944, Excerpts)

MidiDancer Solo
From “Future of Memory” (2003)

MidiDancer Quartet
From “Reine Rien” (2001, Excerpts)

Okay, okay – but we don’t live in 2003. (Hmm, it did have some advantages over the current situation, but oh, well.) Let’s add some stuff you can use right now.

Isadora remains a versatile and powerfully intuitive tool, one that shows its lineage in being designed by people who make performances. That’s well known in the (massive!) modern dance market, but maybe underrated elsewhere – even though the same performance features work well in all kinds of live situations.

Some fresh tools:

There’s this great tutorial on Rainbow Difference Trails, which also is a good starter for working with live video feeds and image processing actors in general:

Rainbow Difference Trails

And once upon a time, Nintendo’s Wii controller (“Wiimote”) was seen as a pretty stunningly easy way to add motion controls. So sure, some of those are now in your phone, but that doesn’t mean the Wiimotes don’t make handy input devices for a range of live tasks, thanks to their various controls and gestural possibilities.

Plus, odds are you can find one of them cheap or even free – possibly in your garage. Again, let’s use tech and not throw it away.

Here is a just-updated patch for that, with an assist by the still-awesome macOS-based OSCulator. There are various ways to make this work on other OSes; I’d need to see what the current Windows-based alternative is, but maybe someone can shout out in comments.

Wii work!