A recent advancement in the dance world is E-Trace, the first-ever electronic ballet shoe. Ballet started in 15th-century France as a form of court entertainment. Ballet was often integrated as an accompaniment to song, music and drama performances. When dance became an independent art form in the 1800s, suddenly choreographers had to up their prestige to maintain interest. An intense amount of flexibility, expression, creativity, strength and dedication now became a requirement to be a ballet dancer. Ballet was no longer frolicking around a stage, it was a poised and particular style of dance. Dancers can spend hours perfecting their technique. The introduction of E-Trace will be impactful in how dancers approach training.
The app connects to the sensors via bluetooth to record traces of the dancer’s movements. The data is primarily intended to create a 2d animation of a line through space that can represent what markings the dancer would likely make on the floor. As a dancer’s feet make contact with the ground, a trace is made. The sensors even track the pressure of the contact to create an accurate visual that looks almost like a painting. Trubat’s intention was to “recreate dancer’s movements in digital pictures”.
The creator of E-Trace, Lesia Trubat, is a graphic designer and recent graduate from The Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona. Her final project was a pair of smart ballet shoes designed to track a dancer’s movements. Trubat was inspired to capture a short-lived dance in an art form that can last forever. She created an intersection between the two art forms with a clever modification of adding Arduino Lilypad sensors to the exterior of pointe shoes. The sensors sent the collected data to an app where you can view a summary of your dance in artistic markings.
Professional dancers can train upwards of 40 hours a week, though it is their intention to look effortless. These shoes present a different way for dancers to train and envision their movements. In the app, dancers can layer multiple traces of the same routine to track improvement or accuracy.
Oftentimes dancers take their extreme dedication to unhealthy levels. Competition can push dancers past their limits and do more harm than good. This new technology might just be another device for dancers to push themselves. There may be a fine line between these shoes being transformative versus enabling their perfectionism.
Trubat took inspiration for this project from Zepp, a sports equipment company supplying sensor-compatible gear. With the same intentions as Trubat, they make tracking your progress simple. In sports where the speed of a swing or kick informs your prestige, using motion sensors is incredibly smart. Advanced sensors can now even account for humidity and temperature on a given day in relation to performance. Using sensors in sports has been impactful in how athletes track progress and train.
Combining visual and performing art into one medium has never been easier. E-Trace is creating a different dance experience that can be enjoyed beyond a stage. It’s possible that this new technology will change the way non-dancers consume and understand dance.
Trubat spent her undergraduate study understanding the impacts of time on dance. In an effort to preserve the fleeting moments of dance she kept physical tracings on beds of salt and paint. She defines dancing as an “ephemeral” art meaning lasting for a very short time. Her creation of E-Trace shares her art form with anyone who wants to create too.
Her work has since been premiered at numerous live performances where the audience can view the dance and the trace side by side.
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