Talking Moves Series 3 Episode 3: Digital Dance and Technology

Talking Moves | 28 May 2021

In this episode we talk to Roswitha Chesher and Alexander Whitley about digital dance and technology.

Both started their careers with dance training – film maker and photographer Roswitha Chesher at Trinity Laban and choreographer Alexander Whitley at the Royal Ballet School – but they’ve both moved into exploring dance in different formats – on camera, screen and using digital technology.

Whilst it’s true to say that over the past year many of us have been on a crash course when it comes to digital and dance, in contrast these two artists have been working within the digital sphere for years and so we decided to invite them on to talk a little bit more about what it is that excites them and find out how we can all learn to explore and use digital technologies more effectively.

We begin by discussing the journey we have been on as a sector which has evolved pretty quickly from the kickstart reaction of many to share back-catalogue documentation to the kind of immersive experience offered recently by Rambert with Rooms. Given their familiarity of the digital space and their enviable access to high quality equipment we also probed a little into whether they themselves had felt creative during covid and how they had reacted either individually or as a company to the challenges of the past year.

Alex shares his interest in technologies such as virtual and augmented reality and the potential this is offering him and his company to explore new ways of making and presenting work. And Roswitha shares some of the lessons learnt from thirty years making dance on screen. She reflects upon how of late so much of the material she has been asked to work with has been made on the very small (mobile phone) screen. Together we reflect upon how the luxury so many of us experience of having this technology in our back pockets can be deployed creatively when used with thought, care and skill.

We talk about the ability to curate an environment when making theatrical work and how in digital this translates to much more nuanced experiences such as directing the focus and the eye. And we talk about the ways in which technology and dance on screen can be used in hybrid formats to create completely new cultural environments which are no longer as simple as a choice between theatre or TV…


View trailer:

Who's Who

Roswitha Chesher headshot

Roswitha Chesher

Roswitha is an award winning director and film maker and has had many films screened extensively both nationally and internationally, at various venues and film festivals.

Originally trained as a dancer and choreographer, she enjoys bringing that knowledge to her work.

She has the wonderful opportunity to collaborate with a diverse mix of contributors and artists and enjoys the richness that this brings to her work.

Roswitha has created many dance for camera films with various artists, organisations and community groups, including Greenwich Dance, ENB, DanceEast, Trinity Laban, Candoco etc. Her most recent film collaboration with Greenwich Dance was, “GLORIA!” which included having fun with fondant fancy cakes, glitter balls and all things ’Disco’ with a cast of Greenwich Dance’s very own movers and groovers.

Projects coming up include collaborating with Chris Pavia & Stopgap Dance Company to create an installation piece for Watts Gallery and with Will Tuckett & Ballet Black to create a film.
Black and white photo of Alexander Whitley

Alexander Whitley

Alexander Whitley is a London based choreographer working at the cutting edge of British contemporary dance where he has developed a reputation for a bold interdisciplinary approach to dance making, producing technologically innovative and thought-provoking stage productions as well as exploring the creative possibilities being opened up by new digital platforms.  His intricate choreography draws on his background in classical and contemporary dance and is noted for its strong musicality and striking visual design.

Alexander has created work for several of the UK’s leading companies including The Royal Ballet, Rambert, Balletboyz, Candoco, Gandini Juggling and Birmingham Royal Ballet. Alexander is a founding member of New Movement Collective and a tutor on the Design for Performance and Interaction Masters programme at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. He is also a New Wave Associate at Sadler’s Wells Theatre and a former Choreographic Affiliate of Rambert and The Royal Ballet.

Founding Alexander Whitley Dance Company in 2014, his works, created with digital pioneers such as Marshmallow Laser Feast and Memo Akten, have toured the UK and internationally including Sadler’s Wells commissions: Overflow, Strange Stranger, 8 Minutes, Pattern Recognition and The Grit in the Oyster; and Royal Ballet commissions: The Measures Taken and Noumena. Working in partnership with The Guardian’s VR studio he created the virtual reality experience Celestial Motion which has recently been extended into Celestial Motion II in collaboration with HTC Vive Arts.

Last year during the Covid-19 lockdown Alexander launched the Digital Body project, using motion capture technology to remotely collaborate with digital artists and composers to create short digital dance films and an AR filter for Instagram. It was extended in a triptych of films called Chaotic Body, the first of which Strange Attractor premiered in October at Roma Europa Festival. In October 2020, Alexander premiered a new stage production, The Butterfly Effect, for Hessisches Staatsballett, in Darmstadt, Germany. He is currently working on Future Rites, a VR experience based on The Rite of Spring which is supported by Creative XR, Sadler’s Wells and BFI London Film Festival.

More in the Talking Moves series

Talking Moves Bonus Episode: Arts Funding in Crisis

Talking Moves bonus episode: Arts Funding in Crisis with Nicholas Hytner and Tarek Iskander

Making Positive Change. Talking Moves title

Talking Moves Series 5 Episode 6: Making Positive Change

Parenting in the Arts. Talking Moves title

Talking Moves Series 5 Episode 5: Parenting in the Arts