Background: The third installment of the Mix series, developed by the British Council in partnership with Flying Object and Roll Studio, Mix the Body was conceived to give anyone the chance to create a piece of contemporary dance using movements choreographed by leading choreographer Wayne McGregor. Created as part of the British Council’s UK-India Year of Culture, the site has a young Indian audience in mind, although we hope that it spreads globally.
Highlights: We wanted the user to feel genuinely part of the process of choreography from the beginning. This led us to using video throughout—from the homepage, with the dancers stretching, to the creation process, in which the dancers interpret your mouse movements, to the final performance, in which the dance is played back as a shareable video with chosen music—all stitched together by the site.
Challenges: The gesture-driven user experience was a challenge; it needed to feel natural and easy and give the user a sense of freedom, while always returning a result that makes sense. This required a lot of prototyping and tweaking.
Favorite details: The fact that users can select either pair of dancers, each including a dancer from Company Wayne McGregor and a dancer from the Bangalore-based Attakkalari. Each movement cleverly interprets the mouse gestures and explores that in a sequence of flowing movements that would make the users think that the pairs have danced together for years—when in fact they only came together for this project.
Anything new: How choreography works! For example, we assumed users would be creating their dance to a soundtrack, but Wayne's process is to compose music after the choreography, so we followed that.
Technical features: The gesture recognition was quite complicated. We used a nearest-neighbor classifier with a Euclidean scoring function, like a geometric template matcher, to allow the site to recognize user gestures.