Vacationing in Vancouver in the early 1990s, Lisa Naugle came across a flier stuck to the pavement in the rain. This serendipitous scrap of paper advertised “software for choreographers, Simon Fra.” At the time, Naugle was a graduate student studying choreography at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, so she was curious. She held on to it for months, rediscovering it in the pocket of her jeans when she was back in New York.
Naugle ended up serving as a beta tester for the advertised LifeForms software. The experience led to an invitation to Simon Fraser University’s summer Computed Art Intensive workshop in Vancouver with renowned media artist Thecla Schiphorst. At the workshop, Naugle not only embraced technology as a central part of her work with dance, but also met her future collaborator and husband, John Crawford, who was codirector of the workshop.
Today, Naugle considers herself a “moving artist.” Working as an interactive choreographer, modern dancer, new media performance artist, researcher and teacher, Naugle wows audiences, inspires and challenges students and maps new ground in technology and dance.
An associate professor of dance at the Claire Trevor School of the Arts, Naugle is among the first dancer/choreographers to research the optical motion capture system and use it in dance performance. Primarily for making animation, motion capture employs sensors and cameras to create three dimensional images of live performance. Naugle established motion capture research at UCI and introduces its potential to students.
Dance student Shantel Ehrenberg performed in two of Naugle’s recent projects, “ActiveSpace” and “Entangled Photons.” Both performances incorporated technology in which video and sound were affected by dancers’ choices and movements. “These performances were fresh, different and exciting, providing a new dancing environment that challenged my mental and physical self,” Ehrenberg says.
Currently Naugle and her husband, also on the dance faculty, are conducting an international series of “video dance residencies,” working with choreographers and dancers to create digital video dance works made specifically for the screen. Residencies have occurred in Romania and Guangdon, China, with invitations for projects in Paris, Berlin, Prague and Beijing.
To see Naugle dance, one assumes she is operating from physical intuition. But to hear her talk, it becomes clear she also draws on intellect. “With improvisation, I’m always sensing and thinking about where I’m at and what’s next, being aware of movement in the moment and open to the various directions I can take, then deciding quickly and moving,” she says. “With technology in performance, this becomes even more interesting.”