Culture is an expression of our humanity. It combines the complex spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional elements that characterize a society or social group. It influences all aspects of people's lives – their ideas and values, creativity, expressions, and their interaction with the natural surroundings. Culture is a cornerstone of a community. When a culture is lost, we lose our unique heritage and an irreplaceable way of being.
Asia, a region rich in cultural diversity, is currently facing immense transformation in its economical and cultural landscapes. Religions, ethnicities, languages and cultural traditions are fast disappearing at an astounding rate. The importance of cultural preservation in Asia to protect its traditions and heritage cannot be undermined.
The work of cultural preservation comes in many forms; it ranges from the restoration of majestic monuments such as the Angkor Wat, to the preservation of less tangible cultural expressions such as oral traditions and literature, music, dance and other performing arts. One of the key areas of study of the Centre for Asian Art and Design is to understand and preserve Asian cultural traditions through the use of digital technology. To this end, the Centre carried out a test project of capturing the movements of a Chinese Dance through the use of digital media.
Using motion capture technology, the team recorded the movements of Chinese dancers in a traditional Chinese fan dance to create a one-minute Chinese dance animated film. Produced in December 2010 and January 2011, the test project provided the team with a fundamental understanding of the application of art and digital technology in cultural preservation as well as the Chinese Dance's origin, development and forms, such as contrasts of movements, speed and composition.
About the Dance
While most traditional Chinese dance involves storytelling, the recorded sequence was choreographed for visual entertainment as the short timeframe of the captured sequence was insufficient to tell a story in keeping with cultural norms. In the recorded sequence, the dancers emphasized the contrast in motion and composition, such as speed of dance, positioning, posture and the use of space. The dance choreography is a combination of a variety of different dance styles, such as Hua Zhu dance, ballet, and Chinese opera.
About the Animation
A minimalistic angular style is adapted to play off the contrast between the arcs and curves prevalent in the dance. Metallic-like textures are used on the animated dancer as a contrast to the softness of the dance movement. The use of bamboo within the set is also a continuation of the concept of contrast. Bamboo is known among the Chinese as an object with hard and soft characteristics – the bark of the bamboo is hard and durable while its remarkable ability to bend under great force represents softness. Complementary colours of green and red are used in sync with the strong beats of the music.