Western Michigan University College of Fine Arts

COVID-19 brought unprecedented disruption to higher education. While the financial impact has been profound, innovation has propelled teaching and creativity. Funds from the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation enabled the College of Fine Arts (CFA) at Western Michigan University (WMU) to creatively teach online, while reaching out to patrons via live stream technologies. One exciting outcome of this investment was a new work created for the Winter Dance Gala.

Early in the pandemic, the Department of Dance was uncertain what the Winter Gala, their flagship event, would look like come February. Would it be a live performance, or would it be virtual? Kelsey Paschich, Assistant Professor of Dance, wanted to create something that would stand up as vital work no matter the delivery method.

The solution? A collaboration with Kevin Abbott, the CFA’s new Director of the Center for Advanced Art Research (CFAAR). They decided to create a dance film that could either be projected during a live performance or streamed online. The resulting work, Recode, explores dualistic identities as they exist during the pandemic. 

Recode examines how information can be misunderstood or lost through the current modes of communication, transforming how humans are interacting with each other. Combining choreography with motion capture, video, animation and video game technology, they created vibrant virtual dancers whose bodies respond to the music, and composed choreography using 3D space in ways that would be impossible to do with live dancers on a stage.

The cast of student dancers was thrilled to be part of a new work that expands the horizons of what dance can be. Plans are being made for new collaborations, with patrons and students alike eager to see what the future brings!

For more information, visit www.wmich.edu/finearts