Case Studies/Loops

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dance remix art collaboration


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Loops is a project created collaboratively between the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and The OpenEnded Group that released Merce Cunningham’s choreography for his solo dance "Loops" under a CC BY-NC-SA license.

Longtime Cunningham collaborators Marc Downie, Paul Kaiser, and Shelley Eshkar, who together form the OpenEnded Group, are releasing an open source recording of [Merce] Cunningham performing a new version of his renowned piece, Loops. Loops was originally performed in 1971 as a solo dance. In this special re-configuration, Cunningham focuses only on his sensor-laden hands and the resulting work is a graceful visualization of his fingers moving through space. The transition into this form indeed visualizes how the artist has evolved over the years. Cunningham is also releasing the score under a Creative Commons (non-commercial/attribution/share-alike) license, so that it can be more closely studied and remixed in the future. For an artist with such a long-standing interest in chance operations, it's a bold and exciting move to see his work opened up to others in this way Marisa Olson,


The OpenEnded Group also released a digital portrait of Cunningham, also entitled "Loops", as open source software. This artwork derives from a high-resolution 3D recording of Cunningham performing the solo with his hands and promises to provide ample substance for derivative works. The result is a ‘live’ performance of the dance that is constantly changing as it runs in real time and does not repeat itself. Both the choreography of the performance and the digital artwork are available under open source licences. The name “Loops” is derived from Cunningham’s circular wrist movements, the aim being to explore the range of possible movements of the human hand. While the dance originally involved different body parts, the version captured and immortalised in this project is performed only using Cunningham’s hands and he considers this to be the “definitive version” of his dance.

Artists have already been invited by the 2009 Boston Cyberarts Festival to re-purpose Loops into new digital forms (see for an example).

License Usage

Choreographing of Merce Cunningham's Loops is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA) 3.0 United States license so others can freely remix and re-score the dance if they attribute the author. However, the work may not be used for commercial purposes and any derivative works must be released under a similar licence to the one used for Loops.


CC licenses "provided the legal and ingenious “copyleft” license that Cunningham has used to share his choreography."

The OpenEnded Group was concerned with the generally limited quality of teaching and criticism in the field of digital artwork. They based this on three factors: • Criticism of digital artwork is generally written by people who have not themselves studied the art in depth; • Even where a decent review of an artwork is available, the art itself is often hard to find and see for yourself; and • Where the artists are found, often they have either stopped working or the art is prohibitively hard to put back together again for installation.

They consider the resulting lack of quality criticism and discussion of the art to ultimately damage the art itself. The decision to release Loops under a CC licence was an attempt to enable a deeper understanding of the artworks and to generate a higher level of discussion. They seek to give the general public - in particular students, scholars and artists - the ability to examine the work with an unprecedented level of precision and understanding of the context. The intention in releasing the artwork under an open content licence was to preserve and document the work and to create “living wills” for both the choreography and the software to allow the perpetuation of the work. The use of a CC licence allows both contemporaneous and future artists and programmers to reuse and reinterpret their work to create their own derivative artworks.


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