Virtual relationships: the dancer and the avatar

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2 Citations (Scopus)
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People might assume that dancing with a digital avatar would be a relatively distant, dehumanizing or disembodied process. However, in this article we propose that effective and creative choreographic practice can be achieved by working with a virtual representation of a dancer, and we offer two case studies to evidence the practical application of motion capture technology within this
context. We observed that the virtual model quickly and naturally becomes an extension of the dancer’s interiority and that a dynamic affective attunement between dancer and avatar spontaneously develops. We describe how the relationship between the physical and the virtual dancing body raises several
practical, theoretical and even philosophical questions for choreographic approach, style and process. Building from Susanne Langer’s (1953) germinal conception of the ‘virtual powers’ of dance, we articulate a practice-led research opportunity to critically reflect on conventional choreographic practices through the affordances of a specifically digital virtuality, in ways that can open
out the kinds of affective, emotional and phenomenological frameworks within which creation occurs. The unique affordances of recent motion capture systems, offer naturalistic three dimensional environments with an increased improvisational interactivity that simply cannot be achieved with video-based media.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-81
Number of pages21
JournalTheatre and Performance Design
Issue number1-2
Early online date19 Aug 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License
(, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.


Arts and Humanities Research Council [grant number AH/V009826/1] and Horizon 2020 Framework Programme [grant number 688865]


  • Dance
  • Avatars
  • Technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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