UPdate with words
I feel mostly behind and stress, I am not enjoying this project at this point, and I feel like it is because I am not getting more consistent motivating feedback. With classes, I am used to getting positive feedback from each project I make, which fuels me to create more projects, but I am not getting that with this project, so I am feeling unmotivated. I am also feeling unmotivated in all of my projects, but this semester has just be so shitty. I have never been so bored and doing so much But I am getting lots of work done, which is good.
Hip hop pants
Aerial Top & BOttom
This week has been pretty productive! I am getting anxious and stressed about school in general lately, which through procrastination of other things fuels the creation of wearables.
This week, I started and almost finished the hip hop shirt, all I have to do left is the coding and the cutting little holes for all the LEDs. I also have done almost all the soldering for the contemporary dancer top and pinned the soldered parts to the top. This week I'll be gluing the LEDs to the top and coding it as well, and then it will be done! I also soldered the bottom of the aerial costume and started pinning the microbit in. I have soldered all the LEDs into the front of the briefs and almost finished sewing the skirt. The next steps for this one is adding LEDs to the skirt, and then putting all the pieces together. I am a little anxious to sew the whole thing together because of that's the last step. I still need to add elastic and leg binding and a liner... I am also almost done with the top. I have been a little frustrated with trying to make it fitted, without having tons of seams. Last week I added the shoulder portion, but I am not happy with the stretch panel I have the should to allow mobility, but I think its the only way I can do it. Its a little asymmetrical at the moment and I can't figure out how that happened; I have been cautious. So I am adding darts at the bottom and going to hold my breath and attach the elastic so I can put the LEDs in.
I have also been working with Annie Kelly to try to create a non-wearable related interaction with dance. I am not really in love with anything I was thinking of for the ballet dancer, so I wanted to develop another way to have an extension of body interaction without having to change the costume in a way that would no longer represent the form. So what we are going to do is have kinetics at the front and side (and maybe above) the dancer, and projects on all side of the cube except for the floor that would project the pathway that viewed from that point of view. So if you lift your arm up straight to the side, on the front and back facing walls, you'd see a c curve around your body—but from the sides, you'd see a straight line.
I then want the lines to be delineated by color for a body part. The lines taper from the start of the pathway to the completion. And later, depending on who the dancer is interacting with, I want to change how long the lines stick around. When she is with the partner she is supposed to be with; the lines would stick around, and create this beautiful brightly painted room. But when she is with a bad partner, they're shorter and disappear faster. Think kind of how the Firebird piece with the Fairy in Fantasia when she can't get the plants to grow versus when she is building the forest up again.
UROP Filming part 1
Filming went well; we're doing more next week. We did the interview portion and the b-roll of me at my desk, getting tools, soldering, sewing, pinning, and coding. It was fun, and I enjoyed the photographer and film person. I am excited about this video, but I feel like I haven't done enough for where I should be on the project... But I think I'm okay? Who knows.
Next week we are doing the second part of the filming, where I will be doing the dancing. I am going to try to have at least three wearables finished and on for next part of filming next week; where we will be shooting the dancing in the dark and doing some long and double exposure photography nonsense that will come out fresh.
I am also going to participate in a music video for a local band with my friend where we dance on trapeze and silks respectively and filmed in front of an on a green screen with drones, which I am excited about.
Issues / roadblocks
I have also been having trouble with this power drop problem with the neo pixels in all of my projects. I am wondering if the Li-ion batteries don't have the amperage power the LEDs... WHich is kind of a big problem, because the AA batteries are big, bulky, and don't recharge well. What happens is that I put the code on the microbit, and the while strand of LEDs is red (despite being programmed to be white), and then when I plug a fresh battery in, they are white, but they are like the kind of white where you can see all of the colors. They are kind of purple from one angle, red from another. You can see this in the first picture at the top of the page, and then the longer the piece is on, it goes more and redder and then starts turning off. I don't know what is wrong with the code because I have had more LEDs run on a less charged battery with a brighter, more consistent color for much longer. I have no idea whats wrong!
Because I don't have the dancers measurements, I keep getting stressed out at the idea that the dancers won't be the size that the wearables are. I want to have a specific dancer for swing, but I think she's around a size 8 or 10, but the skirt I made is a size 4, Which I can't let out. I think these might just be practice pieces that I use, and then I would have to make another piece for the dancer? But that sounds like a crazy amount of work... So I feel a little anxious-making anything but also know I need to finish these pieces. Getting towards the "fuck it" part of the project, where I'll just make stuff to make stuff, and if it doesn't work, that's that, and I'll just make more. #allnighters
I feel like I am perpetually out of material to work with, but my fabric box keeps filling up. I need to order more solder and neo pixels and get more fabric for the house, and hip hop pants. I need to choose my top 3 choices for dancers and reach out to them. I need Gary to respond to my email in which I asked him how many projectors are in the black box and how they are or and how I can position them. I need to know if the performance dates I asked Ben for are available.
Summary: Stressed! Busy! Sleep
Major progress / minor pictures
Meeting about filming when well, the people talked mostly about how the process would go and scheduling how the filming will go. They asked me questions to develop questions.
I also almost finished the house and hip hop shirts, I completed most of the sewing and all I have to do the soldering and the finishing. I also sewed the LEDs into the bottoms of the aerial costume.
I also talked to Laura Maury, who is a phenomenal swing dancer, and she seemed psyched to be in the piece!
Dress Made for Meeting
Went to the St. Julian to meet Micheal Savit and other members of the UROP team (the people who gave me the grant to do this project). I think it went really well, people seemed interested in my project, and I got a contact from Savit of a friend who owns factories in China, which will at the very least be interesting. I am curious about how garments are produced and I hope this will be a more real-world information.
FUnction for brightness
We worked out a few errors in the code, there is still the -works with last signal received problem, but that I'll fix later. This week I have been working on creating a better function for the brightness to create the effect I want. I drew a graph and then did the distance values, which I have from a chart I made a while ago, but need to update because I changed the signal strength... But thats just hours.
I completely cut the pattern. Which is terrifying. This fabric was quite expensive and I don't want to have to buy more... I decided on a raglan sleeve because I thought it would help with movement. I also haven't closed the arms yet so I can put LEDs on the inside of them. The sequin panels have some stretch but will have another layer of no stretch lining behind them with the LEDs on that layer, which is why there are lycra panels between the seams in the shoulders and on the sides to create stretch along those seams. The bottoms have been cut, but I haven't started to put them together. I wish there was a dress form for bottoms...
For the swing skirt, I used a simple A-line skirt (so popular with sorority girls on football game days these days), instead of-of the traditional circle skirt for swing dancers. I thought this would be better to pair with the house dancer because it was a more fashionable skirt for the times. For embedding the LEDs, I tried a new method, since the swing skirt isn't circle and won't flatten out when the dancer spins, I couldn't put them on the inside of the hem, and the fabric was too tightly woven to shine through the fabric effectively, so instead I made mesh pipping that I threaded the LED strand through, and stretched it to the hem. The only thing that is missing to completely finish this on is soldering the LEDs to the board and making a pocket for the board and batteries. Also, it looks like it fits a little weird on the model, but I made the waist a little bigger than the setting on the dress form when the picture was taken. This is so that if the dancer is bigger, It will fit, but if they're smaller I can size it down with stitching and adding elastic.
Swing skirt Sewing Finished
So far, I have done a lot of ordering of stuff. I also made a skirt! I wanted to test a new technique, specifically for the swing dancer costume, but also for future pieces, of creating mesh piping to sew around hems that encase neopixels. Since this is a costume rather than an everyday garment, the LEDs don't need to be quite as obtrusively hidden. In the mesh, they are partially, but not entirely hidden from view.
THe other part about the real world progress is that I am trying not to sew as many of the garments by hand this time. Some costumes will be mostly hand sewn, but I am trying to find better ways to incorporate electronics into ready-made clothes.
This code is supposed to use two Microbits, communicating with radio singles, light neopixels based on their proximity. Right now, this is technically working but will require more fiddling before it is exactly what I want it to be. The signal readings that the brightness respond to are a little in consistent, and I am trying to make the whole thing more smooth.
For this one, at this point, this is just test code. I was tiring to get the compass to work, and it doesn't work all that well, to fill bars on the MicroBit based on where you are facing when turning in a circle. It didn't work, but after more fiddling, we learned that it is because the Microbit's compass readings are about 30 degrees off in random directions for no apparent reason. We (Kari and I) used an iPhone compass pointing in the same direction as the Microbit, and the Microbit was consistently off.
The story I am creating here is why certain pairing won't work. This time, I focused on why hip-hop does no pair with certain things to highlight why hip pairs well with ballet. I will be creating more of these comparisons to choreograph against, and then chose the ones that are most effective at demonstrating that they're a bad pair.
Hip Hop Sketches
So I am a little conflicted here. I based the silhouette on what the guys in my hip hop class wear, rather than doing wider research. I did this because I want the representation of what people wear rather than what people wish hip-hop dancers were. The guys usually wear a t-shirt and some jogger or sweatpant. The more research I did, the more I found more pictures of people were tighter leg pants and joggers with massive crotch drops, and a hooded or crew sweatshirt with the sleeves rolled up. So I sketched both versions.
The leads with being in some fashion like the decals of popular brands for hip-hop wear, like Adidas, making horizontal or vertical lines of LEDs on the shirt, and some pant detail similar to that of the house dancer, but instead of on the calf, on the thigh.
Similar to the hip-hop one, once I mocked up the idea that I sketched, I found more ideas that I like and would be the easier way to integrate put lights. The left most is a modern ballet practice outfit, leotard with a chiffon high-low wrap skirt. Then, I was thinking about put LEDs into it; I was a little uninspired. I could zig zag stitch fairy lights into the chiffon... But I still wanted it to flow beautifully, which I worry that metal in chiffon won't be able to accomplish. SO I started to do some research on non-knit ballet wear. Thinking that the only time there was non-knit ballet wear would be before knit was a primary textile in daily wear. So I looked back into ballet practice clothing of the 30s and 40s: both because those are my favorite decades in that century and because knits were not as popular as a textile then, rather they utilized biased cut fabrics to create wrap.
Then I was conflicted again, because what I sketched when I found 30s/40s ballet wear started to look like a cheerleading uniform rather than something that could pair what I had in mind for hip hop. So then I started thinking of even more modern practice wear. Instead of thinking of modern as in modern dance, I thought of modern like what I would wear to class, or other girls would wear to class.
I like all three of these. I am also playing with the idea that this costume changes. Where the ballet dancer might start in a black leotard and pink tights and no LEDS and then as her trajectory evolves as a character, her costume can changes. Maybe she loses the pink tights, cutting them off and then dons a more expressive wrap dress.
Updates to other costumes
New to the costume cast is the house dancer (second from left) and a shorter skirt on the swing dancer, the to the left of the house dancer.
Per the schedule, I ordered the items that will have embedded electronics in them for the characters I have sketched so far (contemporary, blues, aerial, and swing). This list wasn't very long—I'll be using Microbits for all of these projects if I can, and will order the hardware I need to replace them if I run into things that Microbit that can't support. I also ordered a reel of 300 neonpixels for all of the wearables combined. It should be enough to cover all three of these wearable and more, but if not, they are easy to order on Amazon. Also to Support all of the projects, I ordered LiIon batteries and a few chargers from Sparkfun.
I bought steel cable for the internal structure of the trapeze, which was much more expensive than I expected, but it helps to prevent the rope from stretching and twisting that make bars uneven, which is irritating. I am still working to get the thing welded together. I bought galvanized thimbles, which Jackson informed me that wouldn't campus fab spaces wouldn't accept because welding to galvanized metal creates a hazardous gas. So we're waiting on friends who have a welding system to get back from traveling so Jackson can weld the two pieces together (you apparently just have to hold your breath while welding the galvanized).
For the contemporary costume, I ordered an oversized black button down. In the sketch, she is wearing what looks like an oversized knit cotton shirt, but the button down is still true to what a contemporary dancer would wear in practice. The button down will be easier to add the LEDs to, because there is less stretch to the fabric, which, while it is something I could do, in performance wear, I am more comfortable attaching LEDs to woven, non-stretch fabrics. Also, this way, as the button down shirt is large and loosely fitted, if my dancer changes, I won't need to modify the costume too much, the rest of the costume will be shorts, which are more dancer-specific, and will be bought once I the individual dancer.
For the male blues dancer, I got the suspenders. I will need to find a webbing I want to use, but I want to have the suspenders to better color match the strap and webbing, and decide the length measure after accounting for stretch needed. The suspenders will complete the costume with either a white, gray, or black button down shirt and jeans, which will be purchased with the dancer is solidified.
I got a lot of stuff for the swing dancer, but I didn't find exactly what I was looking for. I wanted a swing dance circle skirt with a full contrast zip back boxy crop top. I might just end up making this exactly because I am not sure if I liked the substitution solution that I came up with in its place. I got the circle skirt, which is easy, thanks to retro revival. The problem was with the top, as I said, I couldn't find the boxy top that I was trying to find. My solution was a sheer lace full zip back shirt under which there will be a stretchy high neck crop top, into which I will embed LEDs, and and then the lace over the shirt to high the electronics, but allowing the light from the LEDs through.
For the aerialist costume, I had already ordered the main body costume—which I rendered in the sketch after ordering it, so it is accurate. The one problem with this costume is that on the purchase base costume is the silver elastic bands that I wanted white. So the only thing for this costume I ordered in this round was spray paint to paint the synthetic elastic bands around the waist and the binding. I am concerned about the stretch factor, but and going to try and make a body model of my body.
THINKING / IDEAS HAPPENED
I was having a conversation with the teacher of the hip hop group I train with Larry, about partner dances in hip hop. Hip hop is often a solo form of dance, and house, being a thread under the large umbrella of hip hop, it differs in that it was made to be a partner dance in some sense. He also cited the only other instance of partner dance in hip hop, which is kid-in-play hacky-sack like tandem footwork and some acrobatics. Learning about the limited instances of partner dance in hip hop affirmed my gut reaction to pair house and swing because the way they feel in the body is similar.
I got a grant to create wearables for a performance that I will create as a part of my senior project! I am excited and grateful, and below are the little bits of planning. FYI, this WHOLE section will be full of spoilers for the performance. (;
Interaction, Color & Placement Planning
In the first table of this page, I have laid out my plan for identifying dancers, the colors, the cut & sew of their clothing, and wearable placement and functionality. In the second I have laid of the pairing of the people. In the table, I explain my reason for pairing each style and describe the interaction that will happen between the two dancers.
What is not explained is the genders. I think this is important to my values, but not necessarily my message. I believe anyone should be allowed to be with whoever they want and that the power dynamic (who wears the pants) is a very big spectrum. So I have a traditional M/F dynamic for the hip hop/ballet pairing, and a F/F for house mostly because both swing and house are done by women, but not dominated by women. The contemporary/blues couple will be fairly balanced, but lead towards the female controlling the interaction. And the aerial dancer (who will be me) is female because I happen to be a female. Also because I think there is a lot of social stigma about females choosing to be alone which I believe is wrong.
[in progress] Relationship Stories and Progression
This is currently the least developed of the sections. I know where I want things to start and end, but the middle will develop as I interact and choreograph with the dancers and get to know them as people. The best way for dancers to act is naturally in my opinion. So the stories will develop and grow with the project.
Initial Costume Sketches
Left to right:
Aerialist: Traditional aerial garb, LEDs sprinkled between sequins in a mock neck long sleeve crop top and waist high briefs.
Swing dancer: Cut and sew T and full circle skirt. Keds with a wingtip pattern in LEDs, (revealing the traditional nature of swing).
Blues dancer: This sketch differs a little bit from the description I have proposed in the first table in the first photo/page. I was struggling with finding a way to incorporate LEDs into simple men's ware.
Contemporary dancer: Easy peasy. Black shorts, black top with spangled arms and shoulders.