In summer term 2016, I initiated for the first time an interdisciplinary student project that explores interactive costumes for dance. The main goal was to implement textile-based sensors into dance suits and to develop meaningful interaction concepts based on choreographic work. For this, I established contact to a local theatre that also has a troupe of professional ballet dancers. Unfortunately, their production cycles and workflows did not to allow for a collaboration with our students - their organizational planning was already made a season before, they produce much quicker, and they have strongly scheduled rehearsals. Therefore, I ended up in making contact with Claudia Kupsch who is the director and one of the dance teachers of the theatre house's kids and youth ballet. This was a good blow, Claudia was totally open-minded from the very first phone call we had. She invited us to visit a few rehersals where she also arranged conversations between our students and her dance students. We were mainly in touch with the older dance classes (the girls were between 14 and 18 years old) who perform classical ballet as well as modern dance styles. We could observe them during the rehearsals, could get a deeper understanding of ballet and modern dance, and we got permission to video-record the choreographic work for further analysis. This enabled us to develop interactive concepts that are close to the choreograpic practices of this ballet troupe.
Eight students of Computer Science & Media, Human-Computer Interaction, Media Art & Design, and Product Design worked collaborative during the classes. They conceptualized, developed, crafted, and tested three interactive dance costumes inbetween four months. Two of the dance suits have embedded textile based sensors and actuate a dancer's motions through light or sound, another costume has an integrated ready-made sensor and actuates the motion of other dancers through light. Although the concepts have been developed closely with the kids and youth ballet, the final tests have been made with other semi-professional dancers in order to explore how useful they could be beyond the choreographies of that dance troupe. My part was mainly introducing the students into costume crafting, into textile electronics and how to create them with do-it-yourseld techniques. I thought students of all participating disciplines in sewing and made them aware of the specific requirements costumes for dance applications have. I further guided and supported their project work in terms of HCI evaluation methods and user testing.