School for the Contemporary Arts, Performance & Culture


Interdisciplinary degree sets dance grad on unique artistic path

October 22, 2020

By Tessa Perkins Deneault

When Caroline MacCaull began her dance degree in SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts (SCA), she didn’t know how to effectively use her laptop. Now, she’s graduating as a dance artist and choreographer who integrates digital technology into her practice.

Her work has been featured at the Vines Art Festival and she is currently an artist-in-residence at What Lab in East Vancouver. She’s also working on a piece to be presented online as part of The Dance Centre’s Digital Dance: Micro Commissions series.

In MacCaull’s third year, when she realized she could take her degree in her own direction, her perspective on her university experience changed. She completed a directed studies course with dance professor Judith Garay and in summer 2019 she joined a field school to Berlin with visual art professor Judy Radul.

“We saw a lot of art and performances in Berlin, and I fell in love with using technology in art. My perspective completely opened up.”

While in Berlin, she heard about Dhurii, a dance school and art centre in Bangalore, India that was accepting applications for its first artist-in-residence program. She applied on a whim and a few weeks later was spending her days dancing and choreographing as one of six artists-in-residence while being mentored by a computer science specialist.

In MacCaull’s fourth year, she worked with dance professor Rob Kitsos to develop a methodology she calls “edit to choreograph.” She takes videos of improvised movement and manipulates them in various ways, such as altering their sequence or tempo. Using an algorithm developed with SCA staff member and composer Stephan Smulovitz, she recreated the movement associated with each video clip as the algorithm selected a randomly chosen clip each time it detected stillness.

MacCaull plans to pursue graduate studies and continue this type of research. While technology is used in many dance productions, her goal is to find ways to make the movement and technology equally important to the art while developing her own unique interdisciplinary practice.

During an internship with Chimerik Collective and SCA alumnus Sammy Chien, an interdisciplinary artist who integrates new media into performance, MacCaull further developed her skills in video editing and software programs such as Isadora.

“That internship has had the biggest impact on my career so far,” says MacCaull. “Sammy is such a kind, genuine person.”

The internship led to a stronger interest in coding, and MacCaull took a computing science course in one of her last terms to learn the Python coding language. MacCaull’s programming and video editing skills have served her well in our new digital-first world. Her Vines Festival programming was moved online, and she was able to turn her work into a dance video instead of a simple recording of what she had originally planned.

“Every new thing in my degree kept building on the last. I was lucky with the timing of learning technology and video editing, and I’m excited to see what happens next.”

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