George Mason University's College of Visual and Performing Arts and the School of Dance Collaborate to Launch the Live Center

Live Center
From left to right: A dance class in front of the Moving Story Window Wall; Window Wall creator, Christopher d'Amboise; and Hope Boykin teaching Mason students from New York through the Window Wall

The College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) at George Mason University, in collaboration with its School of Dance, announced today the official launch of the LIVE Center, also known as The Center for Live Interactive Virtual Education. Conceived and spearheaded by Heritage Professor of Dance Christopher d’Amboise, the LIVE Center is a home for innovative virtual education and collaboration solutions for the School of Dance and all academic units within the College.

The genesis of the LIVE Center dates back to 2019, when Professor d’Amboise first identified a need for video conferencing that allowed for life-sized, full-body interaction in educational settings. This idea propelled the creation of the Moving Story Window Wall, through which a teacher in a remote location can be projected live and life-sized onto the wall of a studio while a live feed of the students is also projected for the teacher. Featuring a flexible projection window of up to 30 feet wide by 20 feet high, the Window Wall is currently set up in four studios for up to 40 students with a minimum of 10 feet social distance. This concept is the basis for the flagship initiative of the LIVE Center, which expands the possibilities for virtual teaching, performances, and innovative events at George Mason University and beyond.

The LIVE Center became imperative when the COVID-19 pandemic forced educators to change the ways in which they typically teach. The virtual nature of the Moving Story Window Wall, eliminating the barrier of distance, has already allowed for safer, physically distanced instruction to take place at the School of Dance throughout the Fall. In addition to making classes possible, the LIVE Center has also allowed for inspiring outdoor events to take place at George Mason University. Recent arts experiences on campus included: Mason Drive-in Dance, a unique performance of student choreography that used a parking lot as a stage and invited audience members to park their cars and use their headlights to light the performers (October 24); and Beyond the Stage, two evenings of dance film screenings that celebrated student choreography and performance for the camera and brought the Mason community together at the Center for the Arts (November 6 and 7).

“The LIVE Center is a place where innovation literally is a moving target—a place where constantly changing ideas about exploring new technologies for teaching, creating, producing, and presenting work across all the disciplines can find fertile soil,” shared Rick Davis, Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. “I call it a moving target, too, because the initial inspiration comes from the world of dance, which is all about motion in time and space. And the LIVE Center has already made breakthroughs in how dancers interact with each other across vast distances. I can’t wait to see what’s next as we bring more kinds of artistic work to the table.”

On December 10, the School of Dance presents the world premiere of Running to and Toward: A Dance Film by Hope Boykin, which features 38 junior and senior dance majors. School of Dance Director Karen Reedy commissioned Boykin to create a new work during the Fall 2020 semester, with the desire to continue the program’s legacy and commitment to engaging dance majors with important artists in the field—even during the pandemic. The Moving Story Window Wall technology allowed for this unique opportunity to have 36 in-person and two virtual dance majors work with Ms. Boykin from her home in New York City.

Through the efforts of HopeBoykinDance, Boykin is a creator, mover, educator, and motivator. A highly celebrated performer who recently completed her 20th and final year as a company member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, she is the Artistic Lead for the Kennedy Center Dance Lab and an in-demand choreographer. Regarding her experience during the residency and in using the Window Wall, she shared “there are no limits to how we can make, build, and bring dance to the lovers of our art form; the lock is broken, and the lid thrown away.”

Professor d’Amboise added, “I am thrilled that the LIVE Center and the School of Dance have created the first ‘New York to Mason Window Wall’ series with guest artist Hope Boykin. Hope’s creativity in embracing the challenges we are facing, and her bold, adventurous spirit are inspiring. She has welcomed innovation and reimagined the creative process in a way that shows us all how the arts are infinitely adaptable and that obstacles are also opportunities. The LIVE Center will continue to innovate with special performance events and more opportunities for leading guest artists in music, dance, art, and theater to inspire our Mason students, faculty, and community.”

Running to and Toward: A Dance Film by Hope Boykin premieres December 10 at 7 p.m. EST on the Center for the Arts’ website, Facebook, and YouTube. The film will remain available for viewing on the website following its premiere.

By Camille Devlin