What most people probably don’t know is that SFU researchers developed one of Cunningham’s most important choreographic tools, a software program called LifeForms (later referred to as DanceForms). Tom Calvert, now a professor emeritus in SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT), created the software and, in 1989, Cunningham began using DanceForms to create his dance works. His PhD student Thecla Schiphorst, now a SIAT professor, further developed it alongside choreographer and scholar Iris Garland who co-founded the dance program at SFU.
Choreographers used DanceForms as an idea generator. It shows the artist 3D views of complex movements from a multitude of different perspectives. Instead of the choreographer asking a dancer to endlessly repeat a step to help develop an idea, DanceForms shows the movement on-screen.