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What Makes This Dance Hack 2017 Costume Sparkle #WearableWednesday #wearabletech #Arduino #DIY #art #dance

Dance Hack 2017 Costume

I’ve been following Caitlin McDonald ever since she started exploring NeoPixels with a costume sleeve. This year she decided to join dancers, musicians and techies for Dance Hack 2017 to expand her soft circuit skills. Well, not only did she help to create an amazing costume, but she was able to collaborate with others for a unique dance experience.

I was very lucky to convince my skilled dancer and costume designer friend Casey Scott-Songin to collaborate with me on expanding the project and integrating it into a full belly dance costume.  To our delight, we found when we arrived at Dance Hack Day that another participant, Jur de Vries, was also interested in working with responsive lights.  Jur had previously created a lighting rig which responds to the music of his cello to change the colour and intensity of lights. Two similar ideas but on a very different scale: lights that change on the body and lights that change around a performer, both responding to the performer’s unique art.

The theme for the event was “weather” and the trio decided to focus on the cultural connections in their work and the connection to the world. Caitlin found inspiration in an unusual image.

…what came to my mind was the sandstorms that sometimes form over the the Sahara, sending desert sand all around the globe.  One happened earlier this year which gave the sky over the UK a reddish hue for a couple of days.  This became the foundation of our piece “Khamseen,” named for the desert wind that blows sandstorms over Cairo in the spring.

This belly-dance costume gets its unique flourish of light thanks to Caitlin’s draped sleeve creation. A textile potentiometer allows arm movement to change the color of Neopixels, which are powered by a GEMMA microcontroller. The finished costume allows for exciting LED sparkle and results in some beautiful light painting. Check out the armband controller.

I’m so excited to see how Caitlin’s sleeve morphed into a costume leading to a performance. For more details, make sure you check out her blog. If you are interested in doing a similar effect in your wearable, check out our Textile Potentiometer Hoodie project. With a flick of the wrist you can change the color of LEDs on your hood, thanks to a sliding sensor. Have fun exploring the many ways conductive materials can come together and don’t forget to send us a video of your project.


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