|The Conference for Research on Choreographic Interfaces (CRCI) presents Dances with Robots: a podcast catalyzed by the corporeal risks and expressive opportunities of contemporary technologies. Join our host, choreographer and Dean at Brown University, Sydney Skybetter, and Co-Host, Ariane Michaud, Executive Director of CRCI, alongside a series of guest hosts, as we explore the ways in which artists, activists and technologists navigate the world through interdisciplinary practice. The podcast premieres Tuesday, November 14, 2023, with new episodes on Tuesdays and Thursdays mornings. For more information, visit https://danceswithrobots.org/podcast.
“This podcast is the result of a decade of collaborative research at the intersection of computation and choreography. But it’s also an extremely personal reflection about becoming an artist in the post 9/11 era and balancing the want to create against the inevitable compromise of personal safety and moral hazard,” says host Sydney Skybetter.
“It has always been a dream of mine to produce a podcast, and a few years ago, I pitched the idea to Sydney in a meeting, almost as a joke! However, once we received support not only from the university but also from the Sloan Foundation and the Brown Arts Institute, it transformed into a serious endeavor. Our goal is not just to tell our story, but to outline what it means to conduct research at the intersection of movement and emerging technology. For years, people have asked us, ‘Why dance?’ This project provided us with an opportunity to truly answer that question,” says Co-Host and Executive Producer, Ariane Michaud.
“All manner of disruptive, military-adjacent AI and robotic technologies are poised to radically reconfigure the dance field, and the world. I think dance is a useful lens to understand these technologies, how they relate to our bodies as we move through space and time. Dances with Robots is our attempt to understand what it means to be fleshily embodied in an increasingly disembodied era,” says host Sydney Skybetter.
Host: Sydney Skybetter
Co-Host & Executive Producer: Ariane Michaud
Archivist and Web Designer: Kate Gow
Podcasting Consultant: Megan Hall
Accessibility Consultant: Laurel Lawson
Music: Kamala Sankaram
Audio Production Consultant: Jim Moses
Assistant Editor: Andrew Zukoski
Student Associate: Rishika Kartik
Episode 1: The Nerd Gaggle
Tuesday, November 14th 6:30 am
Welcome to Dances with Robots! In this introductory episode, Sydney Skybetter recounts the beginnings of the Conference for Research on Choreographic Interfaces, aka CRCI (pronounced Circe, like the Greek sorceress), and breaks down how, and why, we work in dance and emerging technologies.
Kevin Clark has been part of the CRCI team since before the very first convening and has been a host and facilitator as well as an advisor for the last decade. Currently, Kevin is a Senior Manager at VMware Tanzu Labs, formerly Pivotal Labs. He leads a team of consultants building technology with government, educational, and social impact clients. Before joining industry, Kevin served as New Music USA’s Director of Platform, and consulted with Stanford’s Digital Civil Society Lab, Creative Capital, the MAP Fund, and others. Kevin is a composer, whose theatrical works draw on source material ranging from a letter Hildegard of Bingen wrote to Eleanor of Aquitaine to the Twitter bot Census Americans.
Kristen Bell (she/her) is a dancer, educator, and arts administrator. As a performer, Kristen has danced with GERALDCASELDANCE, Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, Molissa Fenley, Robert Moses’ Kin, Skybetter + Associates, TAKE Dance, and American Repertory Ballet, among others. She has taught ballet and modern technique at Tisch School of the Arts, Princeton University, Boston Conservatory, Randolph College, ODC School, Shawl-Anderson Dance Center, Sharron Miller’s Academy of Performing Arts, and Lydia Johnson Dance School. She is currently teaching at Rutgers Mason Gross School of the Arts. Kristen graduated from Princeton University with a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a certificate in Dance, and she holds an MFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts.
Jordan Isadore was born and raised in Northern California and started dancing as a young child. He continued his studies at California State University Long Beach, where in 2009 he received his B.F.A. in dance. While at CSULB Jordan was the recipient of the Baker Scholarship, a two-time recipient of the Lana Alper Dance Scholarship, and was awarded outstanding service to the Department of Dance from the CSULB College of the Arts and dance faculty. During his studies he was fortunate enough to perform works by Twyla Tharp, Marie De La Palme, Jodie Gates, Keith Johnson, Sophie Monat, as well as many others. Since graduation he’s been working as a freelance dancer and traveling the world. In addition to working with Christopher Williams Isadore has recently worked with LA Company Bodytraffic, performing works by Barak Marshall, Club Guy & Roni, as well as Alex Ketley. He has also worked with Shen Wei Dance Arts and has performed at the David H. Koch Theater, Mariinsky Theater, throughout China, South America and Europe. His own work has been presented at The Museum of Arts & Design, 92nd Street Y, Joe’s Pub, Madame Tussauds, and The American Dance Festival.
Katherine Helen Fisher is an EMMY- Award-nominated director researching choreographic forms at the confluence of expanded cinema, performance, and interactive new media. Her creative practice incorporates choreography, emerging technology, and education. Katherine works as an advocate for sustainable labor practices within the field of contemporary art by championing more equitable renumeration for cultural workers. Previously, Katherine danced with The Lucinda Childs Dance Company and has also performed with MOMIX, ODC San Francisco, the Merce Cunningham Trust and Johannes Wieland among others and as an ensemble member of the Philip Glass opera Einstein On The Beach directed by Robert Wilson. As a director, Katherine has directed projects for Radiohead, Rufus Wainwright, Hermès and Microsoft. Her work has been presented by WNET, Los Angeles Dance Project, Judson Church, Danspace Project, The Hammer Museum and The REDCAT among others. She developed a participatory performance garment, Le Monstre, which won a Jury Prize for Best Paper at The 21st International Symposium on Wearable Computers. She is cofounder of Safety Third Productions, a digital media design studio, and mother of two-year-old Frances Leigh Fisher. She holds an MFA in dance at Sarah Lawrence College and a BFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Keira Heu-Jwyn Chang was a triple-major in Ballet, Astrophysics, and Philosophy at the University of Utah before pursuing Cultural and Arts Management at American University. Chang worked at the Association of Performing Arts Presenters and New York City Center Theater. She spent two years with a small venture capital firm gaining fluency in financial and business planning, investment, and securities regulation. She currently serves as Executive Director of the stellar Kate Weare Company and Studio Manager for artist Kyle McDonald. Chang continues to pursue projects at the intersection of technology and the arts as a freelance photographer, graphic designer, web developer, electronics fabricator and interactive installation designer. She has worked with Gibney Dance’s Digital Technology Initiative and Barnard College’s Movement Lab to teach and mentor dance artist interest in integrating technology in their creative practice. Her newest venture, DADA – The Dance Arts Data App, is a web based application designed to be a free tool and a knowledge base of fundraising, marketing and administrative information for dance organizations.
Kiri Miller is Professor of American Studies at Brown. Her work focuses on participatory culture, interactive digital media, popular music, and virtual/visceral performance practices. Her current research project investigates “insomniac listening” via sleepcasts and meditation apps: app-based audio content that promises to put listeners to sleep. Building on her previous work on “intimate media,” Miller analyzes how these audiocentric self-care products circulate across platforms and drive discourse about anxiety, wellness, and sonic comfort. Kiri’s most recent book, Playable Bodies: Dance Games and Intimate Media (Oxford, 2017), shows how dance video games transmit choreography, teach “kinesthetic listening”, invite experimentation with gendered and racialized movement, and stage domestic surveillance as intimate recognition. Playable Bodies was the recipient of the de la Torre Bueno Book Award from the Dance Studies Association and the Alan Merriam Prize from the Society for Ethnomusicology. Miller is also the author of Playing Along: Digital Games, YouTube, and Virtual Performance (Oxford, 2012) and Traveling Home: Sacred Harp Singing and American Pluralism (Illinois, 2008). Kiri completed the Ph.D. in Music (Ethnomusicology) at Harvard in 2005 and was a Killam Memorial Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Alberta before joining the Brown faculty in 2007. She has published articles in Ethnomusicology, New Media & Society, Game Studies, American Music, 19th-Century Music, the Journal of American Folklore, Oral Tradition, and the Journal of the Society for American Music. In 2010-11 she held fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and the American Council of Learned Societies. Kiri’s regular course offerings include Musical Youth Cultures, Making Music American, Virtual Bodies, Music and Technoculture, and Popular Music Studies.
Episode 2: Oh Great, The Nazis Were Into Modern Dance: A Conversation with Kate Gow
Tuesday, November 14th 6:30 am
Kate Gow, CRCI’s archivist and web designer, sits down with host Sydney Skybetter to discuss historical intersections of dance and technology. Turns out that the weird history of dancers catching on fire, Degas, and the Nazis have a lot to do with the dance of the future.
Kate Gow is an archivist and designer of digital spaces. Her work revolves around memory, the body, and how we interact and perform with technology. She graduated as valedictorian from The Boston Conservatory, pioneering the Conservatory’s first emphasis in Dance & Technology. In her sixth year with CRCI, she is moved to be documenting the conference that unveiled to her the power and significance of artistic intelligence. You can find her in performance and behind the scenes as a Senior Professional Services Consultant at Quadient.
Episode 3: The One With Tom Cruise
Thursday, November 16th 6:30 am
Sydney Skybetter interviews John Underkoffler, the Science and Technology Advisor for the 2002 movie Minority Report. We talk about how the infamous computer-gesture scene that made John famous led to the founding of Oblong Industries,a company that tried to make Minority Report’s speculative interfaces a reality.
John Underkoffler is an innovator, entrepreneur, computer scientist, and the co-founder/CEO of Oblong Industries. His foundational work at the MIT Media Laboratory included innovations in real-time computer graphics systems, large-scale visualization techniques, and the I/O Bulb and Luminous Room systems. He invented G-Speak, the human-to-machine communication system featured in Minority Report, and has since served as the scientific advisor for films such as The Hulk (A.Lee), Aeon Flux, and Iron Man. Oblong Industries has collaborated with firms across architecture, defense, aerospace, and IT sectors, including companies such as IBM, Boeing, and Raytheon. John is also active on several boards and serves as adjunct professor in the USC School of Cinematic Arts.
Episode 4: Fierce on the Palm Pilot: A Conversation with Kamal Sinclair
Tuesday, November 21st 6:30 am
Sydney Skybetter and producer Kamal Sinclair chat about the intersection of the cultural sector, emerging technologies, and the vintage hardware that shaped their childhoods. Are we all complicit in these complex cultural systems? Oh, and also, can we please bring back the Filofax?
Kamal Sinclair supports artists, institutions, and communities working at the convergence of art, media, culture, and technology. Currently, she serves as the Senior Director of Digital Innovation at The Music Center in Los Angeles, which is home to TMC Arts, Center Theatre Group, Los Angeles Master Chorale, LA Opera, and LA Phil. Additionally, she serves as an advisor or board member to Peabody Awards interactive Board, For Freedoms, NEW INC.’s ONX Studio, Civic Signals, For Freedoms, MIT’s Center for Advanced Virtuality, Starfish Accelerator, Juvenile Bipolar Research Foundation, and Eyebeam. Previously, she was the Director of Sundance Institute’s New Frontier Labs Program, External Advisor to Ford Foundation’s JustFilms and MacArthur Foundation’s Journalism & Media Program, Adjunct Professor at USC’s Media Arts + Practice program, and Executive Director of the Guild of Future Architects. She is the co-author of Making a New Reality. Sinclair got her start in emerging media as an artist and producer on Question Bridge: Black Males, where she and her collaborators launched a project with an interactive website and curriculum; published a book; exhibited in over sixty museums/festivals.
Episode 5: Choreorobotics 0101
Tuesday, November 28th 6:30 am
Sydney Skybetter gives us an inside look into his research into chorerobotics; the overlap of choreography and robotic motion planning. He and the CRCI team ask questions about the risks and the implications of the work, and what it means to make a robot do the mashed potato.
Stefanie Tellex is an assistant professor in the Computer Science Department at Brown University. The aim of the research program is to construct robots that seamlessly use natural language to communicate with humans. In twenty years, every home will have a personal robot which can perform tasks such as clearing the dinner table, doing laundry, and preparing dinner. As these machines become more powerful and more autonomous, it is critical to develop methods for enabling people to tell them what to do. Robots that can communicate with people using language can respond appropriately to commands given by humans, ask questions when they are confused, and request help when they get stuck. By applying probabilistic methods, corpus-based training, and decision theory, we can develop interactive robotic systems that can understand and generate natural language. Stefanie completed her Ph.D. at the MIT Media Lab in 2010, where Stefanie developed models for the meanings of spatial prepositions and motion verbs. Her postdoctoral work at MIT CSAIL focused on creating robots that understand natural language. Stefanie have published at SIGIR, HRI, RSS, AAAI, IROS, and ICMI, winning Best Student Paper at SIGIR and ICMI. Stefanie was named one of IEEE Spectrum’s AI’s 10 to Watch and won the Richard B. Salomon Faculty Research Award at Brown University.
Madeline Morningstar is a consultant, producer, and project manager with a critical background in Theatre Arts and Performance Studies from Brown University. She specializes in facilitating interdisciplinary experimentation and mediatory practices to explore the impact of virtual spaces and emergent technologies on embodied practice. Morningstar’s creative work, ‘Face the Data,’ centers individual agency, community building, and ethical exploration, earning her recognition with the Minnie Helen Hicks Prize in Art. She has collaborated with numerous individuals and companies across the cultural and technology sectors, including Miko Robotics, Heidi Latsky Dance, choreographer Laura Gorenstein Miller, the Museum of Dance, and the Conference for Research on Choreographic Interfaces, founded by Sydney Skybetter. Morningstar worked as a Solutions Consultant at the experience management consultancy commonFont and spearheaded the development of the ‘Choreorobotics Initiative’ featuring Boston Dynamics’ Spot robots under the Brown Arts Institute. Madeline’s passion for merging art, technology, and culture fuels her drive to create innovative experiences that challenge conventional boundaries and inspire new forms of expression.
Yanira Castro is an interdisciplinary artist born in Borikén (Puerto Rico) and living in Lenapehoking (Brooklyn). She forms iterative, multimodal projects that center the complexity of land, citizenship, and governance in works activated and performed by the public. Since 2009, she’s developed work with a team of collaborators as a canary torsi, working at the intersection of participatory practices, performance, installation, and interactive technology. Their recent work includes a performance manual for reckoning with MCA Chicago; a sensorial podcast to rehearse for a collective future; and a tea ritual created with four teens from NYC Girl Scouts Troop 6000 to enact the ingestion of home/land at The Invisible Dog Art Center. Recent support has come from Creative Capital, The Alpert Award, The MAP Fund, a NYFA Choreography Fellowship, and residencies at MANCC, MacDowell, and Yaddo. Castro has received two Bessie Awards for Outstanding Production. Acanarytorsi.org
Eric Rosen is currently a research scientist at Boston Dynamics AI Institute. He completed his PhD in Computer Science at Brown University, where he was co-advised by Stefanie Tellex and George Konidaris.
Episode 6: Dances with Robots IRL: A Conversation with Catie Cuan
Thursday, November 30th 6:30 am
Sydney Skybetter sits down with choreorobotics innovator, Dr. Catie Cuan. They discuss her personal and professional trajectory, and try to answer the question: why dance with a robot?
An engineer, researcher, and artist, Dr. Catie Cuan is a pioneer in the nascent field of ‘choreorobotics’ and works at the intersection of artificial intelligence, human-robot interaction, and art. She is currently a Postdoc in Computer Science at Stanford University. Catie recently defended her PhD in robotics via the Mechanical Engineering department at Stanford, where she also completed a Master’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering. The title of her PhD thesis is “Compelling Robot Behaviors through Supervised Learning and Choreorobotics”, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, Google, and Stanford University. During her PhD, she led the first multi-robot machine learning project at Everyday Robots (Google X) and Robotics at Google (now a part of Google Deepmind). She has held artistic residencies at the Smithsonian, Everyday Robots (Google X), TED, and ThoughtWorks Arts. Catie is a prolific robot choreographer, having created works with nearly a dozen different robots, from a massive ABB IRB 6700 industrial robot to a tabletop IDEO + Moooi robot. Catie is also a 2023 International Strategy Forum (ISF) fellow at Schmidt Futures and the former co-founder of caali, an embodied media company.
Episode 7: There Is Always A Cost
Tuesday, December 5th 6:30 am
Ariane Michaud, CRCI’s Executive Producer, steps in this week as host. She explores various forms of emerging tech, from the New York Police Department’s deployment of “Spot” robots to getting drones ready for dance performance. What are the challenges? The risks? The opportunities?
Eoghan Dillon was born in Ireland and grew up in Ottawa, Canada, where he started his dance training. In 2012 he received a full scholarship to study at the Ailey School in New York City, where he worked under Milton Meyers, Francesca Harper, and many other acclaimed professionals. After joining Parsons Dance in 2014, Eoghan went on to become a Rehearsal Director and eventually the company’s Artistic Associate in 2020. Working directly with David Parsons, Dillon performed and helped maintain works by esteemed artists like: Robert Battle, Kate Skarpetowska, Trey McIntyre, Ephrat Asherie, Chanel Da Silva, and many others. He has toured, taught, and choreographed all over the United States and Europe, and has been commissioned to create for Parsons Dance, METDance, and Dark Circles Contemporary Dance Company, Ballet Memphis, The Institute of Contemporary Dance. Most recently, he was selected as a Finalist for the Capezio A.C.E Awards. Eoghan’s dancing has been featured in such international publications as Metro Roma, The New York Times, Ottawa Life Magazine, The Tyrone Times in Ireland, was featured in The Gap’s “Dress Normal ” Campaign, and most recently was an honoree of The Irish Echo’s Top 40 under 40 award. Alongside his teaching positions at the Flow40 Touring Dance Convention and Steps on Broadway NYC, Eoghan continues his mission of spreading inclusive dance to the world with his company Red Rhino Dance.
Marc Raibert is the founder, CEO (1992-2019) and president of Boston Dynamics. Recognized expert in robotics worldwide, since the 1980s he has focused his research on systems that move dynamically, mainly robots or animated creatures. Raibert’s BigDog, Atlas, Spot or Handle robots have gone viral on YouTube. Inspired by the animals’ remarkable ability to move, these robots have agility, skill, navigation, perception and intelligence, and some of them stand out for their incredible acrobatics and agility. Before starting Boston Dynamics, Raibert was professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT and an associate professor of Computer Science and Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University. At CMU he founded the Leg Laboratory (1980), a lab that helped establish the scientific basis for highly dynamic robots. Raibert developed the first self-balancing hopping robots, a significant step forward in robotics. Raibert earned an Electrical Engineering, BSEE from Northeastern University in 1973 and a PhD from MIT in 1977. Raibert was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 2008 for biomechanically motivated analysis, synthesis, control, and application of multi-legged robots.
Eric Rosen is currently a research scientist at Boston Dynamics AI Institue. He previously completed his PhD in Computer Science at Brown University, where he was co-advised by Stefanie Tellex and George Konidaris.
Episode 8: Overclocking of The Human Computer
Thursday, December 7th 6:30 am
Sydney Skybetter sits down with performance historian Doug Eacho to discuss emergent technologies of the last century. They explore how sci-fi has influenced our expectations for the future of performance, and why these expectations almost never become reality.
Douglas Eacho is a performance historian and theater director. His current research project concerns artists and engineers who have sought to automate theatrical processes, from French surrealists, to lighting board designers, to contemporary makers of algorithmic dance. He explores the increasing integration between automaticity and theatricality on and off the stage, and the shifting ways technology performs amidst conditions of economic stagnation. Another research thread concerns the long history of statistical representation as it has intersected with naturalist and aleatory performance; this work informed his article “Serial Nostalgia: Rimini Protokoll’s 100% City and the Numbers We No Longer Are” (Theatre Research International, 2018). His reviews have been published in Theatre Survey, Theatre Journal, and Theatre and Performance Design. Before his doctoral studies, his found-text performances were presented around New York City, including at the Invisible Dog, Judson Memorial Church, and the Center for Performance Research. His Fear of a Lonely Planet, a piece about tourism, was devised with Stanford University students in 2018.
Episode 9: Turning The Tables
Tuesday, December 12th 6:30 am
Sydney Skybetter discusses some of the core theories that he teaches at Brown. Turns out, what works in the dance studio doesn’t always work in the real world.
Anna Watkins Fisher is a cultural and media theorist, whose research spans the fields of digital studies, performance studies, visual culture, environmental humanities, and critical theory. Anna is an associate professor in the Department of American Culture and the Digital Studies Institute at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her first book, The Play in the System: The Art of Parasitical Resistance (Duke University Press, 2020), explores what artistic resistance looks like in the 21st century, when disruption and dissent can be easily co-opted and commodified. A second experimental book, Safety Orange (U Minnesota Press, Forerunners series, 2021), uses the bureaucratic color standard “Safety Orange” as an interpretive key for theorizing the uneven distribution of safety and attention in a 21st-century American landscape of mass privatization, securitization, and incarceration. Her essays have appeared in such venues as Journal of Visual Culture, Social Text, Discourse, WSQ (Women’s Studies Quarterly), MIRAJ, and TDR/The Drama Review. I am the co-editor with Wendy Hui Kyong Chun of the 2nd edition of New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader (Routledge, 2015). She is also a founding member of the digital research collective Precarity Lab; the collective’s manifesto, Technoprecarious, was published by Goldsmiths/MIT Press in 2020. Currently, she co-leads the Critical Futures Project, a research collective based at the University of Michigan that explores theoretical approaches for addressing the new urgency of climate change under digital and racial capitalism. Previously, she was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University. She holds a PhD in Modern Culture and Media from Brown University, an MA in Performance Studies from NYU, and a BA from Duke University.
Jessica Rajko is an Assistant Professor at Wayne State University in the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance. Her research includes critical, scholarly and artistic approaches to research at the intersection of dance and computing. Her most recent research: investigates emergent and recurring gaps and trends in published computing research involving dancers, supports dialogue and novel research methods with others working at the intersection of dance and computing, explores haptic (tactile) aesthetics in numeric data representation and dance-based performative exchange, and designs new, critical approaches to digital media design education in dance curriculum. She’s presented and performed collaborative artworks nationally and internationally, including Amsterdam’s OT301, Toronto’s Scotiabank Nuit Blanche festival and New York City’s Gotham Festival at The Joyce Theatre. She was named one of Phoenix New Times’s “100 Creatives of 2016” and have been commissioned by the Currents New Media Festival, Breaking Ground Dance Festival, Mesa Arts Center, Heard Museum, and Phoenix Art Museum. She’s presented research at several transdisciplinary academic, institutional programs such as Harvard’s Digital Futures Consortium, UPenn’s Price Lab for Digital Humanities, and University of New Mexico’s ART Lab. My curricular design and research has been a recurring offering at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute at University of Victoria, where she introduced attendees to movement-based approaches to understanding and designing wearable technology. She received her MFA in Dance and Interdisciplinary Digital Media at Arizona State University in 2009 and her BA in Dance and Psychology at Hope College in 2005.
Simone Browne is Associate Professor in the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is also Research Director of Critical Surveillance Inquiry (CSI) with Good Systems, a research collaborative at the University of Texas at Austin. CSI works with scholars, organizations and communities to curate conversations, exhibitions and research that examine the social and ethical implications of surveillance technologies, both AI-enabled and not. With a focus on algorithmic harm and tech equity, we continually question “what’s good?” in order to better understand the development and impact of artificial intelligence. Simone is currently writing her second book manuscript, Like the Mixture of Charcoal and Darkness, which examines the interventions made by artists whose works grapple with the surveillance of Black life, from policing, privacy, smart dust and the FBI’s COINTELPRO to encryption, electronic waste and artificial intelligence. Together, these essays and interviews explore the productive possibilities of rebellious methodologies and creative innovation when it comes to troubling surveillance and its various tactics, and imagining Black life beyond the surveillance state. Simone’s first book, Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness, was awarded the 2016 Lora Romero First Book Publication Prize by the American Studies Association, the 2016 Surveillance Studies Book Prize by the Surveillance Studies Network, and the 2015 Donald McGannon Award for Social and Ethical Relevance in Communications Technology Research. Simone is also a member of Deep Lab, a feminist collaborative composed of artists, engineers, hackers, writers, and theorists. She is also a member of the Academic Council of AI NOW Institute, the Executive Board of HASTAC, a Board Member of The Dark Laboratory, a Community Advisory Board Member of the US Covid Atlas Project at the University of Chicago, A People’s Guide to Tech Advisory Board Member, EPIC Advisory Board Member and a Member of the Scholars’ Council of the Center for Critical Internet Inquiry at UCLA.
Episode 10: Code Switch: A Conversation with Raja Feather Kelly
Thursday, December 14th 6:30 am
Sydney Skybetter sits down with artist Raja Feather Kelly to talk about his work in live performance. The two consider airport security and the end of the world, and Raja shares how his personal experiences and creative work shape one another.
Choreographer/Director Raja Feather Kelly is the artistic director of dance-theatre-media company the feath3r theory (founded in 2009). In 2018 the feath3r theory merged with New Brooklyn Theatre. Raja has been awarded a Creative Capital Award (2019), a National Dance Project Production Grant (2019), a Breakout Award from the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation (2018), Dance Magazine’s inaugural Harkness Promise Award (2018), the Solange MacArthur Award for New Choreography (2016), and is a three-time Princess Grace Award winner (2017, 2018, 2019). He was born in Fort Hood, Texas and holds a B.A. in Dance and English from Connecticut College. Raja has been named as the 2022-23 Quinn Martin Director a the University of California San Diego. In 2019–2020 Raja was the Randjelovic/Stryker Resident Commissioned Artist at New York Live Arts and is an inaugural Jerome Hill Artist Fellow. Raja has also been awarded a New York Dance Performance “Bessie” Award, a Bessie Schonberg Fellowship at The Yard, a DanceWEB Scholarship, a New York Foundation for the Arts Choreography Fellowship, a HERE Arts Fellowship, 2018 Creator-in-Residence at Kickstarter, and a Choreography Fellowship at the Center for Ballet and the Arts at NYU. Over the past decade he has created fifteen evening-length works with his company the feath3r theory to critical acclaim. Most recently, UGLY (Black Queer Zoo) at The Bushwick Starr, and We May Never Dance Again® at The Invisible Dog in Brooklyn. Professionally, Raja has performed with Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group, David Dorfman Dance, Kyle Abraham|Abraham.In.Motion, and zoe | juniper. He has also managed a number of dance companies: Race Dance, Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion, zoe | juniper, and Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group. Since 2016, Raja has choreographed extensively for Off-Broadway theatre in New York City, most notably for Signature Theatre, Soho Rep, and New York Theatre Workshop and Playwrights Horizons. Frequent collaborators include: Lileana Blain-Cruz, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Sarah Benson, and Lila Neugebauer. Other theatre credits include choreography for Skittles Commercial: The Musical (Town Hall), The Chronicles of Cardigan and Khente (SohoRep), Everyday Afroplay (JACK), GURLS (Princeton University, Yale Repertory Theatre), Electric Lucifer (The Kitchen), Lempicka (Williamstown Theatre Festival), The House That Will Not Stand (New York Theatre Workshop), Fireflies (Atlantic Theatre Company), If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must Be a Muhfucka (Playwrights Horizons, nominated for the 2019 Lucille Lortel Award and the 2019 Chita Rivera Award for Outstanding Choreography), The Good Swimmer (BAM), and Faust (Opera Omaha). Most recent work: A Strange Loop (Playwrights Horizons), Fairview (Soho Rep, Berkeley Rep, TFANA and winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Drama).
Episode 11: Title TBD
Tuesday, December 19th 6:30 am
Ariane Michaud is back as a co-host this week. She and Sydney Skybetter share some of the dancers and movers that most inspire CRCI’s work, individuals and organizations that are specifically at the forefront of activism, policy change, and inclusive design.
Choreographer, designer, and engineer Laurel Lawson is a transdisciplinary artist making work that imagines new kinds of experience, reinterprets traditional stories, and questions cultural assumptions. Her performing-arts career began in music before serendipity brought her to dance, where she found a discipline combining her lifelong loves of athleticism and art. Featuring synthesistic mythology, athletic partnering, and nuanced emotional relationships, their work includes both traditional choreography for both disabled and nondisabled artists and novel ways of extending and creating art through technology and design. Lawson began her dance career with Full Radius Dance in 2004. She is an artist and Access and Technology Lead with Kinetic Light, the internationally acclaimed disability-arts organization; cofounder and CEO of CyCore Systems, a boutique systems and product engineering firm; and the Director of Rose Tree Productions, where she choreographs transdisciplinary art and supports equity-centered arts work. Her newest project is The Choreodaemonic Platform, in collaboration with Sydney Skybetter.
Alice Sheppard is the Founder and Artistic Director of Kinetic Light, as well as a choreographer and dancer in the company. Sheppard studied ballet and modern dance with Kitty Lunn and made her debut with Infinity Dance Theater. After an apprenticeship, Sheppard joined AXIS Dance Company, where she toured and taught in the company’s education and outreach programs. Since becoming an independent artist, Sheppard has danced in projects with Ballet Cymru, GDance, and Marc Brew Company in the United Kingdom and Full Radius Dance, Marjani Forté, MBDance, Infinity Dance Theater, and Steve Paxton in the United States. Her choreography has been commissioned by Full Radius Dance (2019), CRIPSiE (2016), and MOMENTA (2019, 2016 and 2014). A Bessie award-winning choreographer, Sheppard creates movement that challenges conventional understandings of disabled and dancing bodies. Engaging disability arts, culture, and history, she is intrigued by the intersections of disability, gender, and race. In addition to performance and choreography, Sheppard is a sought-after speaker and has lectured on topics related to disability arts, race and dance. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, in academic journals, and the anthology Disability Visibility, edited by Alice Wong. She is a 2020 Disability Futures Fellow, a joint initiative of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Ford Foundation, respectively.
Hiroshi Ishii is the Jerome B. Wiesner Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the MIT Media Laboratory. After joining the Media Lab in October 1995, he founded the Tangible Media Group to make digital tangible by giving physical form to digital information and computation. Here, he pursues his visions of Tangible Bits (1997) and Radical Atoms (2012) that will transcend the Painted Bits of GUIs (Graphical User Interfaces), the current dominant paradigm of HCI (Human-Computer Interaction). He is recognized as a founder of “Tangible User Interfaces (TUI),” a new research genre based on the CHI ’97 “Tangible Bits” paper presented with Brygg Ullmer in Atlanta, Georgia, which led to the spinoff ACM International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction (TEI) from 2007. In addition to academic conferences, “Tangible Bits” was exhibited at the NTT ICC (2000) in Tokyo, Japan, at the Ars Electronica Center (2001-2003) in Linz, Austria, and many other international arts & design venues. For his Tangible Bits work, he was awarded tenure from MIT in 2001, and elected to the CHI Academy in 2006.
Bill T. Jones was born and raised in rural Steuben County in upstate New York. He began his dance training as a student at the State University of New York at Binghamton where, as a theater major on an athletic scholarship, he enrolled in dance classes with Percival Borde. After living briefly in Amsterdam, Jones returned to SUNY in 1973 and joined with Lois Welk in forming the American Dance Asylum. Two years earlier, Jones met his long-time partner and companion Arnie Zane. The two choreographed and performed innovative solos and duos in the 1970s, often employing openly gay choreography. In 1982 they founded Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane and Company, which provided a vehicle for the development of their choreography. Their works increasingly took on evening-length dimensions. Jones, a tall, powerful dancer, was an outstanding soloist who often mixed video, text, and autobiographical material with his choreography, as he did in “Blauvelt Mountain” (1980) and “Valley Cottage” (1981), part of the trilogy that began with “Monkey Run Road” (1979). Jones and Zane gained recognition as “new wave” or “post modern” choreographers whose large-scale, abstract collaborations, such as “Secret Pastures, Freedom of Information,” and “Social Intercourse,” were visually and spatially altered by contemporary sets, costumes, and body paintings. They danced in costumes by clothing designer Willi Smith and had sets created by pop artist Keith Haring. These collaborative works were performed in prestigious venues such as the Brooklyn Academy of Music and New York’s City Center theater. In 1983, Jones was commissioned to create the fast-paced, all-male “Fever Swamp” for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, followed by “How to Walk an Elephant,” in 1985. After Zane’s death in 1988 from AIDS, Jones continued to choreograph and perform. His works expanded to the field of opera and musical theater. He choreographed British composer Sir Michael Tippett’s “New Year” (1990), choreographed and directed Leroy Jenkins’ “Mother of Three Sons” (1991) at the New York City Opera, and directed Kurt Weill’s “Lost in the Stars” in 1992. Jones’ work has been commissioned by companies throughout the U.S. and Europe. In 1986 Jones and Zane received a Bessie Award, and in 1991 Jones was recognized as an “innovative master” with the Dorothy B. Chandler Performing Arts Award. In June of 1994, Jones was awarded a MacArthur fellowship.
Janet Wong was born in Hong Kong and trained in Hong Kong and London. Upon graduation she joined the Berlin Ballet where she first met Bill when he was invited to choreograph on the company. In 1993, she moved to New York to pursue other interests. Ms. Wong became Rehearsal Director of the Company in 1996, Associate Artistic Director in August 2006 and Associate Artistic Director of New York Live Arts in 2016.
Episode 12/ BONUS: Sad Dads in Space: A Conversation with Sarah Bay-Cheng
Thursday, December 21st 6:30 am
Sydney Skybetter sits down with Dr. Sarah Bay-Cheng, a performance studies professor, scholar, and Dean at York University in Toronto, Canada. They discuss their shared expertise in puppetry, the movie “Interstellar,” and the COVID moment.
Sarah Bay-Cheng is Dean of the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design and Professor of Theatre & Performance Studies at York University in Toronto, Canada. Her research focuses on the intersections of media and performance, including four books, most recently Performance and Media: Taxonomies for a Changing Field (2015). Bay-Cheng has been a Fulbright Scholar in Media and Cultural Studies at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and a founding co-host for On TAP: A Theatre & Performance Studies Podcast.