Jonah Bokaer has pioneered, nurtured, and guided the use of App Development towards composition, interactivity, lighting, presentation, and distribution of choreography – often with live audiences during his performances – in the United States and internationally.
He is arguably the first choreographer to have worked in this manner.
Examples of the Apps can be found below, and also on iTunes.
Beginning in 2009, Bokaer was engaged as the first Artist-In-Residence at the Georgia Institute of Technology, through a pilot program called ARTech, led by George Thompson at the Ferst Center for the Arts. This offered a period of incubation within one of the oldest and most respected polytechnical universities of our time.
ARTech allowed Bokaer to imagine an App in which the public could interact with his performances – live, in real time – impacting the outcome of his dances through voting, among other interfaces.
To realize this, Bokaer partnered with Jason Freeman (Digital Music Professor), team leader Stephen Garrett (Human Computer Interaction), Anosh Daruwalla, Nathan Weitzner, and longtime dancer Adam H. Weinert. The creative team worked to realize this objective through workshops between September 2010 – April 1, 2011.
The result was an App called Mass.Mobile, a client-server system for mass audience participation in live performances using smartphones. It was designed to flexibly adapt to a variety of participatory performance needs and to a variety of performance venues. It allows for real time bi-directional communication between performers and audiences, utilizing existing wireless 3G, 4G, or WiFi networks.
The App was workshopped February 27-28, 2011 at the CDC Les Hivernales Festival in Avignon, during Bokaer’s live performance called FILTER, and was publicly launched at the Ferst Center for the Arts at Georgia Tech. on April 1, 2011. Subsequent performances, presentations, and workshops have occurred in the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The Atlanta performances using Mass.Mobile were so popular, and so dense with audience participation, that the server crashed.
Further refinement of the App has occurred since 2011, and the results of the experiment have been extensively published in academic and public media outlets.
Jonah Bokaer partnered with Jason Freeman (Digital Music Professor), team leader Stephen Garrett (Human Computer Interaction), Anosh Daruwalla & Nathan Weitzner (Masters Candidates at Georgia Tech), and longtime dancer Adam H. Weinert. Stage Lighting design in Avignon was by Aaron Copp.
“Mass.Mobile” is available for download from the Distributed Music Lab at Georgia Tech.
A sample implementation can be viewed here.
Following a 4-year collaboration with Pentagram’s principal graphic designer, Abbott Miller, producer, Patsy Tarr, and 2wice Arts Foundation, Bokaer worked to choreograph and create “Fifth Wall”, an interactive App that transforms the iPad tablet into a new kind of performance space.
Created in collaboration with Miller, scenographer, Bob Guest, composers, Sō Percussion, filmmaker, Ben Nicholas, and sound designer, Jared Hutchinson, the App takes advantage of the unique spatial and physical parameters of the iPad.
In the App, Bokaer engages with the edges of the iPad screen, and the viewer can interact with the performance by moving the tablet. To create the performance, the team built a box with the same proportions as the iPad. Bokaer was filmed performing 8 of his dances within the box, engaging with the edges, jumping from the corners, and sliding down the sides.
As users interact with the iPad in the finished App, the performance responds to the movement of the user, flipping when the screen is turned, or changing when the surface is swiped.
Technologically innovative, the app makes use of the accelerometer in the iPad, the device that “uprights” the screen to the proper orientation of the viewer.
The title of the App/performance is taken from the concept of the “Fifth Wall”, the idea that performance spaces now extend beyond the “Fourth Wall” of the theater, and are potentially present everywhere in the form of screens. The App positions the tablet as the space for a new kind of performance, literally putting the dance in the hands of the audience, allowing for direct engagement with the piece.
The performance responds to the movement of the user, flipping when the screen is turned, or changing when the surface is swiped. The App is highly interactive, and can be manipulated by the viewer. Images may be scaled up or down, lined up in a series, arranged in a mosaic, or viewed in an infinitely receding perspective. Through it all, Bokaer continues his dance, moving in the viewer’s hands.
Bokaer’s work often involves gravity and degrees of motion, and “Fifth Wall” gives him the opportunity to examine these themes in a new way. Miller and 2wice previously collaborated with Bokaer on “False Start”, a print issue that presented a performance in a flipbook-like succession of images.
2wice has always envisioned itself as an alternative space for dance, one that has the advantage of being a permanent record of a highly ephemeral art form. 2wice has a tradition of commissioning and recording performances for the publication, staging dances to be photographed, sometimes creating new pieces, and recording existing ones. This approach continues with “Fifth Wall.”
Partner-in-charge and designer, Abbott Miller, designers, Kristen Spilman and Andrew Walters, developer, Eddie Opara, partner-in-charge and designer, Frank LaRocca, developers, Hunter Cross and Ken Deegan, Produced by Patsy Tarr/2wice Arts Foundation, Choreographed and Performed by Jonah Bokaer, video direction by Ben Louis Nicholas, Original Score by Sō Percussion, Sound by Jared Hutchinson, and Associate to Jonah Bokaer, Adam H. Weinert.
“Fifth Wall” is available for download from iTunes. The App was featured in the Sunday Arts & Leisure edition of The New York Times.
Bokaer also danced in 2wice and Abbott Miller’s first App, “Merce Cunningham Event” , a tribute to the legendary choreographer.
“Merce Cunningham Event”, 2wice’s first App for the iPad, is a tribute to the legendary choreographer (1919-2009) that combines live-action video, interviews, and historic dance photography originally developed in collaboration with Cunningham. The App is available as a free download through iTunes, building upon Cunningham’s lifelong interest in using technology to present dance in new ways.
Partner-in-charge and designer, Abbott Miller, designers, Kristen Spilman and Andrew Walters, produced by Patsy Tarr / 2wice Arts Foundation, video direction by Ben Louis Nicholas. Original Score from Jonah Bokaer’s Anchises, by composer for Loren Kiyoshi-Dempster, licensed by kind permission. Content in the App was performed by Jonah Bokaer, and Holley Farmer, with still images of the performed by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company from the
CPR – Center for Performance Research.
In 2013, Jonah Bokaer was awarded one of the ten Doris Duke Charitable Foundation “Building Audience Demand for the Performing Arts” grants, in partnership with Georgia Tech.
The Doris Duke / Georgia Tech Residency is designed to build “inventive ways to create and pilot methods for reaching the public and developing their interest in and access to the performing arts.”
Theresa Loong, Eric Mika, Angela Chen, Meryem Kettani
Soon to be available on iTunes.