Dance has always been an expressive discipline that evolves, reflects, and responds dynamically to different developments in history. In a world, therefore, where the metaverse is trending and drones are being added to shopping wish lists, what does it look like when one of the oldest cultural forms innovates for the future? What happens when technology serves as a core constituent of an artistic partnership?
Associate Dean for Impact Deborah Estrin encouraged Michael Byrne to use his dance research to showcase the affordances of the Cornell Tech campus, prompting Byrne to brainstorm with PhD student Fanjun Bu, newly graduated Nialah Wilson-Small, and the Production Glue crew about the ways in which robotics, drones, virtual reality, and choreography could intersect creatively.
The result was Innovación Monumental – a film collaboration with one of New York’s most inventive dance organizations, Ballet Hispánico – in which Artistic Director and CEO Eduardo Vilaro choreographed several vignettes with company members Dandara Veiga and Mariano Zamora, as well as the aforementioned technologies.
“It is a professional thrill to work within a cross-disciplinary institution like Cornell Tech where there is an open invitation to create,” said Michael Byrne, DLI Research Associate and newly appointed Creative Lead for Tech, Arts, and Culture. “This special partnership with Ballet Hispánico allowed us to examine the playful interchange between technology and choreography, revealing a shared institutional passion for innovation – both digital and embodied. The expansive interiors of our campus, as well as the breathtaking surrounds of the nearby memorial, provided Ballet Hispánico’s Eduardo Vilaro with a stage to explore multimodal forms of movement.”
The sublime dancers (and their technological counterparts) can be seen performing Vilaro’s compelling choreography inside Cornell Tech’s Tata Innovation Center and within Four Freedoms Park, both co-located on Roosevelt Island. Projects and partnerships like this highlight Cornell Tech’s ongoing mission to ensure its groundbreaking research and technologies can impact communities and creative industries beyond the campus labs.
“Monumental Innovación also marks the beginning of a longer-term initiative between Cornell Tech, Ballet Hispánico, and other collaborators around history, dance, and digital interventions in civic spaces,” Byrne added excitedly.
Choreography: Eduardo Vilaro, Ballet Hispánico
Dancers: Dandara Veiga and Mariano Zamora, Ballet Hispánico
Creative Direction: Michael Byrne, Cornell Tech
Film Direction: Dom McGee, Production Glue
Producers: Production Glue and Bloomberg Philanthropies
Featured Technologies: Cornell Tech
Drones: Nialah Wilson-Small, Shiri Azenkot, and Kristin H. Petersen
Robotics: Fanjun Bu and Wendy Ju
Mixed Reality: Michael Byrne
Four Freedoms Park Conservancy: Howard Axel and Angela Stangenberg
Music: Santa Maria (Pepe Braddock Mix), La Revancha del Tango (Bonus Track Version), © Gotan Project, 2001 XL Recordings Ltd