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Blending music, dance and technology requires flexibility.
In some cases, that flexibility encompasses more than dancers' fluid movements and the music that accompanies them. It also entails network flexibility to support a combination of contemporary dance, music and a mobile app that increases audience participation in a performance. In one case, Cradlepoint's AER2100 router provided that flexibility.
For John Toenjes, music director for the department of dance at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, this curiosity in combining music, dance and technology emerged in the late '70s.
"I discovered early on in my career that through motion capture, I could combine my interest in computers, music and dance into a research agenda," Toenjes said. This discovery eventually led to a university grant and an exploratory class that pursued ways to use iPads with dance and performance.
In the class, Toenjes and his students tested various apps to use along with the iPads, but most were "one-trick ponies" that didn't match the myriad requirements needed for the theater, he said. A student suggested developing their own app to meet their needs, which spurred the creation of LAIT -- or The Laboratory for Audience Interactive Technologies -- a mobile app developed by University of Illinois instructor Tony Reimer. Toenjes proceeded to create productions focused on using the app as a core part of the dances.
The LAIT app is an "empty container" in which Toenjes or Reimer can add coded instructions, Toenjes said. They can use their instructions -- formatted in JSON -- to create a queue of prompts that the app sends to audience members' phones during a live performance. The prompts can make the phone change colors, flash lights, sound a musical tone or encourage audience voting, for example.
"What I'm doing with the app is using the intimate connection a person feels with their personal device to guide their attention to the artwork and get them more immersed in it," Toenjes said.
Cradlepoint AER2100 router provides network flexibility
Central to these performances is the ability of the audience, ranging from 40 to 400 people, to download and interact with the LAIT app. But the performance can't go on without network infrastructure that can support the app and the audience.
"Networking is really at the core of this, because what the app does -- and how it's evolved to be usable in the theater -- is be flexible," Toenjes said. "Things happen in the theater; they change all the time."
Part of the app's flexibility is in the fact that instructions for the upcoming performance can be reprogrammed up until the moment the audience enters the theater, he said. But it also requires network flexibility, because Toenjes conducts performances in various venues.
"Being in contemporary dance, I end up being in small theaters, independent theaters or dance festivals where they're set up in gymnasiums or warehouses," he said. As a result, most of the venues he visits have "funky" networking, with inadequate network infrastructure to support the app and audience connectivity.
To solve the network flexibility issue, Toenjes said he did a Google search and found the Cradlepoint AER2100 edge router that can provide converged wired and wireless connections.
John Toenjesmusic director for the department of dance at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
"The Cradlepoint device has allowed me to have a lot of flexibility in terms of where I go and what kind of connectivity I have," Toenjes said. For example, the Cradlepoint router acts as a pop-up network -- capable of acting as both LAN and WAN -- and can transmit its own Wi-Fi signal, so audience members can connect. But Toenjes said he can use Cradlepoint's router with any venue's existing network infrastructure.
"The cool thing is I can plug it in via Ethernet into their existing network and amplify the signal, using it as a Wi-Fi router," he said. The capability to connect to the cell network has been the most useful, he added.
The Cradlepoint router is cloud-managed and includes unified threat management. Toenjes said he can also configure the router to adjust policies for domain name systems in order to allow or guide audience access to specific URLs.
"This whole idea of using networks in performing arts has been a real eye-opener in terms of how these technologies can bring people together in a physical space -- not just this virtual space," Toenjes said.